Pakistan calls for ‘new era of peace and cooperation in South Asia’

Pakistan would work with nuclear rival India to ease tensions in the disputed Kashmir region and to start "a new era of peace and cooperation in South Asia," Gen. Pervez Musharraf said.

Speaking Wednesday before more than 150 world leaders gathered for this week's U.N. summit, he said that India and Pakistan "cannot ignore the legacy of festering problems left by the past" and must continue talking to each other to prevent war.

The neighbors have fought three wars since 1947, when they left the British Empire, and came close to another in 2002. But relations, of late, have been warming.

Later Wednesday, Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met on the sidelines of the U.N. summit to review relations between the countries since their last meeting in April. They said in a joint statement that they would continue to pursue a peace settlement in Kashmir "in a sincere spirit," seek the continued release of prisoners on both sides and promote trade.

Last week, Singh told separatists in Kashmir that India would withdraw troops in phases from parts of the region.

"Our nations must not remain trapped by hate and history, in a cycle of confrontation and conflict," Musharraf said. "For this to happen, it is essential to find a just solution to the problems of Jammu-Kashmir acceptable to Pakistan, India and, above all, the people of Kashmir."

The United States views Pakistan as a crucial ally. Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999, helped the United States in the 2001 war in neighboring Afghanistan that ousted that country's Taliban militia rulers and the al-Qaida fighters they sheltered.

Musharraf met Tuesday with U.S. President George W. Bush to discuss Kashmir and security on the border with Afghanistan. The United States trains Pakistani soldiers and sells weapons to its army, reports the AP.

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