UNITED NATIONS - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif criticised India in his address to the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday for withdrawing last month from planned peace talks over bilateral issues, including the dispute over Kashmir.

“We were disappointed at the cancellation of the foreign secretary-level talks by India,” Sharif told the 193 member countries of the General Assembly on Friday. “The world community, too, rightly saw it as another missed opportunity,” he remarked.

In his wide-ranging address, applauded for its depth, the PM laid out Pakistan’s vision for peaceful relations in the region. He made an emphatic call for resolution of Jammu and Kashmir conflict as imperative for peace, security and economic uplift of South Asians, saying the region must proceed with more “dialogue and diplomacy”.

PM Nawaz Sharif also stressed to the world body that Afghanistan currently passing through political and security transitions should become a “pivot of strategic cooperation, rather than of rivalry.”

He also underscored Pakistan’s commitment to highest standard of nuclear safety and said the country is following a policy of reliable deterrence but cannot be oblivious to the “emerging security scenarios and buildup of armaments”.

Islamabad, Nawaz Sharif said, is striving to overcome challenges of terrorism - which he condemned in all its forms and manifestations - and sketched out some of the economic and energy policies his government is pursuing for welfare of its people.

With regard to challenges in the form of extreme weather patterns, he said: Pakistan has directly experienced such a calamity recently. The floods in Pakistan have killed hundreds of people, displaced millions, destroyed homes, livelihoods and infrastructure. “The international community should intensify its efforts to move from awareness to commitments to actions on climate change, which is playing havoc with the economies, particularly in the developing countries.”

Speaking in the regional security context, he said, “In South Asia, our people have missed opportunities for prosperity because of unresolved conflicts. We have a choice today: continue with the status quo or to seize the moment to resolve all outstanding issues and free up our shared energies for cooperation.” What is needed for it, he said, is high statesmanship, more dialogue and diplomacy, respect for each other’s rights and sensibilities.

He expressed Islamabad’s disappointed at India’s unilateral cancellation of talks to be held in August. He said Pakistan is convinced to remain engaged in dialogue. “Let us not ignore the dividends of peace.” He reminded that more than six decades ago, the UN passed resolutions to hold a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir and Kashmiris are still waiting for fulfilment of that promise.

“Many generations of Kashmiris have lived their lives under occupation, accompanied by violence and abuse of their fundamental rights... The core issue... has to be resolved. This is the responsibility of the international community... Pakistan is ready to work for resolution of this problem through negotiations,” he said.

About Afghanistan, the PM noted that it is going through momentous security, political and economic transitions. He reiterated Pakistan’s unending solidarity with Afghan people and felicitated the new Afghan leadership. “We also hope that the process of inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation would move forward.”

The prime minister told the top diplomatic forum Pakistan continues to host, for the past 30 years, millions of Afghan refugees. This is the largest refugee caseload in the world, he said and urged the world to enhance support for Afghans repatriation.

On drug trafficking, he said, it is important to pursue a comprehensive approach to eliminate poppy cultivation, reinforce border security, and interdict criminals. “Pakistan is mainly a victim of drugs transit and trafficking,” he said, calling for regional and global efforts to fight this menace. Referring to operation Zarb-i-Azb, he said, “Complementary counter-terrorism measures on the Afghan side... are essential.”

Turning to the Middle East, the PM said this past summer Gazans were subjected to mass atrocities by Israel. “We condemned the indiscriminate killings of civilians - which amounted to genocide,” he said as he conveyed Pakistan’s condolences and sympathies to the people of Palestine. He said Pakistan welcomes ceasefire but next steps must also be taken. “The blockade of Gaza must be lifted, Palestinian prisoners freed and illegal settlements halted. The UN should facilitate a just and lasting solution of Palestinian issue,” the PM added.

Speaking about the Syrian conflict, he said Islamabad calls on all parties to renounce military means and hold dialogue. “The emergence of new militant entities in the Middle East once again illustrate that terrorism is a global threat. This primitive force in Iraq and Syria is an aberration, which has no sanction of any religion. It must be countered with unified and resolute will.”

He said: “We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. He said “we are fighting terrorism planted on Pakistan’s soil”. In the past 13 years, as a frontline state, Pakistan has suffered huge loss of men and material. “Yet, It is the resolve of our nation to fight this scourge to the finish.”

At the same time, Islamabad has made a plan for relief and rehabilitation of nearly one million IDPs, he said. This includes a strategy to prevent resurgence of militancy. He said it’s important to counter extremists’ narrative. “Inter-racial tensions and defamation of religions provide fertile ground for conflict. Constructive and serious dialogue among religions is essential to promote understanding, tolerance and harmony. We remain committed to the UN-led efforts to support these objectives.”

The PM reaffirmed Pakistan’s strong commitment to peacekeeping, saying it is rooted in the country’s foreign policy. He also said Pakistan as a responsible nuclear weapon state will pursue a policy of nuclear restraint and credible minimum deterrence, and continue to support the objectives of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Pakistan is not participating in any arms race yet it cannot be oblivious to emerging security scenarios and buildup of armaments, he said, adding, “We too, have the obligation to maintain a robust and reliable deterrence.” He reiterated the need for an “inter-linked mechanism for pursuing nuclear restraint, conventional equilibrium and conflict resolution.

To promote stability, Pakistan is prepared to explore new CNBs and it has maintained highest standards of nuclear safety and security. It is a state with advanced nuclear technology, with an experience of more than 40 years. “We are a mainstream partner in the international non-proliferation regime” and Pakistan has a stringent national export control system. He said: “Pakistan ought to be a part of these export control regimes, especially the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Pakistan also qualifies for full access to civil nuclear technology, to overcome its energy shortages and spur economic growth.”

Regarding the ongoing UN reform, he said, it must be comprehensive. “We support a reform of the Security Council that would reflect the interests of all members’ states - small, medium-sized and large - and not the ambitions of a few. There should be no new permanent seats in the Council. This will be contrary to the democratic character of this world body. We want the Council to become more representative, equitable, accountable and transparent.”