Kashmir is "jugular vein" of Pakistan: Nawaz Sharif

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said India and Pakistan should join hands to tackle poverty and disease instead of wasting their resources on wars.

Islamabad: Describing Kashmir as the "jugular vein" of his country, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday said India and Pakistan should join hands to tackle poverty and disease instead of wasting their resources on wars.

Kashmir is a "national issue and the jugular vein of Pakistan" and its resolution is as dear to him as other Pakistanis, Sharif said in his first address to the nation since assuming office in June.

Sharif cautioned that Pakistan cannot achieve any target without strengthening its economy. "Alongside the Kashmir issue we will have to pay attention to strengthening our economy? resolve our internal and external problems and tackle the power crisis and terrorism," he said.

Referring to his desire to forge good relations with India, Sharif said both countries should realise that "instead of wasting their energies and resources on wars they should wage war against poverty ignorance and disease".

Pakistan and India will have to join their heads together to address common issues like poverty and ignorance, he said.

"History bears testimony to the fact that progress and development of a nation is deeply linked to cordial relations with neighbours. It is because of this that we want good relations with all neighbours, including India," he said.

Sharif said he had "always wanted good relations with India" and the people had supported his contention during the general election in May.

Without referring to clashes along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, Sharif said the country is "fully prepared to defend the motherland along with its valiant armed forces".

Sharif`s PML-N party won the polls with a clear majority but has been struggling with an array of challenges, ranging from a crippling energy crisis to a Taliban insurgency.

Ties between Islamabad and New Delhi too have soured since five Indian soldiers were killed in an attack by Pakistani troops along the LoC.

Turning to domestic issues, Sharif expressed his government`s resolve to eliminate terrorism improve the economy and address the power crisis.

"Pakistan is today facing serious challenges like terrorism, endangering the very survival of the country, and the worst kind of load-shedding that has paralysed the economy," he said.

Sharif said his government is determined to tackle terrorism "either through dialogue or with the full might of the state" and all state institutions are on the same page on this issue.

"The government has more than one option to tackle the problem but wisdom demands that there is no loss of innocent lives," he said. Sharif invited those "treading the path of terrorism to (join a) dialogue to end the vicious cycle of bloodshed".

He said the country`s foundations had shaken by poor administration rampant corruption and the inefficiency of the past 14 years that has brought national institutions like PIA Pakistan Steel and Pakistan Railways to the verge of "virtual collapse".

National debt, which was Rs 3,000 billion in June 1990, has now soared to Rs 14,500 billion, he said.

Sharif listed steps taken by his government to overcome the energy crisis, including increasing the generation of electricity by 1,700 MW.

Long-term measures are being initiated to counter the power shortage and coal-based power plants with a capacity of 6,600 MW will soon be inaugurated.

Sharif further said the time had come for a bold review of Pakistan`s foreign policy as scant national resources cannot be exploited for the good of the poor and the progress of the country without this. He said his dream to make Pakistan an Asian tiger is deeply linked to this.

He said his government has a "clear cut position" on US drone attacks, which are a violation of Pakistan`s sovereignty, and this was directly communicated to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry was urged to stop the drone attacks, he said. The UN Secretary General too expressed concern at the killing of peaceful civilians in these attacks, he said.