Pakistan PM Sharif offers talks with arch-rival India

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif speaks at a news conference, during a summit on climate resilience in Pakistan, months after deadly floods in the country, at the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, January 9, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has offered his Indian counterpart talks over all outstanding issues, including disputed Kashmir, which he believes could be facilitated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

"My message to the Indian leadership and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is let's sit down at the table and have serious and sincere talks to resolve our burning issues, like Kashmir," Sharif said in an interview with Al Arabiya news channel, telecast by Pakistan's state run TV on Tuesday.

He said he had taken up the issue with UAE's president Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed in his recent visit to the Emirates.

"He's a brother of Pakistan. He also has good relations with India. He can play a very important role to bring the two countries on the talking table," Sharif said.

The Indian foreign affairs ministry didn't respond immediately to a Reuters request for comment.

The two arch-rival nuclear powers have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947. Two of the wars were over Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan region, which both the nations claim. Each controls half of it.

The two neighbours got closer to a full scale war in 2019 when India launched an air strike inside Pakistan to target what New Delhi said was a militant training facility.

Tensions rose high when India unilaterally revoked the autonomous status of its part of Kashmir later in 2019, which Sharif said resulted in "flagrant" human rights violations.

Ever since, official talks between the two countries have been suspended, although there were some backdoor diplomacy attempts to resume negotiations - one brokered by the UAE in 2021.

Sharif said the wars between the two countries brought nothing except misery, poverty and unemployment.

"We want to alleviate poverty, achieve prosperity and provide education, health facilities and employment to our people, and not waste our resources on bombs and ammunition, that's the message I want to give to PM Modi," he said.

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