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Indian PM Promises to Normalize Ties With Pakistan

As India and Pakistan prepare to resume a dialogue process in July, the Indian prime minister has expressed his commitment to normalizing relations with its neighbor. The Indian leader is also promising to cut poverty by aiming for higher economic growth.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says lack of trust has been the biggest obstacle in moving ahead with negotiations with Pakistan.

The Indian leader says he hopes that a meeting between the top diplomats of the two countries next month will mark a beginning in tackling the "trust gap".

"This will be the first major effort to deal with the underlying cause, that is lack of adequate amount of trust between our two countries," said Mr. Singh. "I am hopeful that that this process can move forward."

The prime minister promised "every effort" to normalize relations with Pakistan, saying India could only realize its development potential if it has good ties with its neighbors. New Delhi suspended a peace dialogue with Islamabad after the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, but, following a recent thaw, the two countries have decided to resume talks to tackle their deep differences.

Mr. Singh was addressing a news conference after completing one year in office, following the re-election of the Congress-led coalition government for a second term last May.

In the past year, the government has struggled to control rising food prices and to combat an increasingly violent Maoist insurgency. The government has also had problems managing its political allies.

But an economy that has withstood the global recession and continues to grow well has been the bright spot for the government.

Mr. Singh describes his record in the past year as one of "reasonable achievement." He expressed satisfaction at the high economic growth in the country, which he says could touch eight-and-a-half percent this year. He promised steps to control inflation, which he called a matter of "deep concern."

The prime minister says the government's biggest task is to ensure more inclusive growth in a country where hundreds of millions of people are still poor, despite the economic boom. He says his government will aim for even higher rates of growth and focus on widespread development.

"We need in the medium term a growth rate of ten percent per annum," he said. "We need to invest more in infrastructure, social and economic infrastructure. We need to increase the productivity and efficiency of our agriculture."

Mr. Singh is a well-liked prime minister, regarded as being honest in a country where many politicians are seen as corrupt. But his critics say the real power in his government is wielded by the powerful head of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi.