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India, Pak talks very positive, encouraging: Ban

United Nations: Terming as "very positive" and "encouraging" recent efforts by India and Pakistan to normalise their relations, UN chief Ban Ki-moon today hoped the two neighbours will continue the dialogue process and play a greater role for peace, security and harmony in the region.

"India and Pakistan are very important countries not only in the region but in world politics. They both have a great role to play for peace, security and harmony in the region," Ban told PTI here in an interview.

The UN chief, who will leave for a three-day visit to India tomorrow, welcomed the "very positive movement" between the two countries to improve trade ties.

Ban was also appreciative of Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari`s private visit to India earlier this month and his meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. "I welcome the recent movement, very positive movement between the two countries, the exchange (between) the leadership and engaging in addressing all pending issues through dialogue at the highest level. This is quite encouraging," Ban said.

"I hope such dialogue will continue to first of all improve the bilateral relations and contribute further to regional and international peace and security," he added.

The peace process between India and Pakistan was resumed last year after a gap of two years in the aftermath of the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008.

Addressing the issue of terrorism, Ban said the whole world has been struggling to fight against international terrorism. India is "no exception" since the country has been targetted by terrorists, he added. Ban, however, welcomed the "very strong commitment" and "determined will" shown by the Indian government to fight terrorism and also support the United Nations` global strategy against terrorism.

The strategy provides a broad framework on how the international community can work together at the national, regional and international level to combat terrorism, Ban said, adding that addressing the problem of terrorism and protecting human lives should be given "first and foremost consideration" by nations.

On India`s successful test-fire of its `Agni V` missile last week, Ban said he has "taken note" of the reactions and concerns raised by countries in the region, including China over the missile launch.

Ban pointed out that there are relevant UNSC resolutions on missiles and use of nuclear weapons. "I would encourage India to pursue bilateral and multilateral dialogues with nuclear weapon possessing states in a non-discriminatory and a transparent manner. This threat posed by the nuclear issues should be discussed very closely with nuclear weapons states. These are very important issues," he said.

Responding to a question on the 2014 troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ban said while some countries have "accelerated the pace" to pull back from the war-torn country, due attention and political policy consideration is required to ensure that transfer of the security responsibility to the Afghans is accompanied with Afghan national security forces being strengthened in their capacity to address their own security. "The security and development agenda should be promoted hand in hand," he said.

Ban also noted that as the foreign troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, it is important that there should be some reconciliation among the different ethnic groups in Afghanistan. "These groups should fully cooperate and reconcile. In this regard, the UN has been trying to support and facilitate the Afghan government`s dialogue with the Taliban for the reconciliation process," he said.

Ban acknowledged that recent multiple attacks across the country by Taliban forces may have had a "negative impact" on the reconciliation process, but the international community should fully support Afghanistan`s positions to have security and development agenda in place.

Talking about the UN human rights council resolution, which called on Sri Lanka to probe allegations of war crimes committed during the decades-long conflict with Tamil rebels, Ban said it is important to ensure that there is accountability and the process of addressing the rights violations is "very transparent." "In addressing all these issues, the human rights and humanitarian concerns, human lives should be given the first and foremost priority," Ban said.

The UN chief said he has been urging with the Sri Lankan leadership to take all necesary measures to ensure human rights are protected and promoted. "It is the right time for President Mahinda Rajapaksa to address the issues in a speedy and judicious manner," Ban said.

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