New Delhi: India has welcomed the Pakistan election that has paved the way for a new federal government, which New Delhi hoped would help build a South Asia free of terrorism.
In a statement issued Saturday, foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said India “desires a prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbours".
“We welcome that the people of Pakistan have reposed their faith in democracy through general elections," Kumar’s statement said of Pakistan elections that the European Union and the US have expressed reservations on—in terms of “restrictions" on freedom of expression and an “unequal" opportunity for candidates to campaign.
“We hope that the new Government of Pakistan will work constructively to build a safe, stable, secure and developed South Asia free of terror and violence," Kumar added in the statement.
However, Kumar—in the statement—did not comment on the offer of India-Pakistan peace talks from Imran Khan, tipped to become Pakistan next prime minister. His Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has won 116 seats in the 272-seat National Assembly, far ahead of its nearest rival, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which has won 63 seats, according to Reuters. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), led by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the son of assassinated two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was third with 43 seats. Khan’s party has opened talks with potential political partners and independents to form a coalition government, Reuters reported.
According to people in New Delhi familiar with the developments, India could respond to Khan’s offer after the political situation in Pakistan became clearer—when the process of installation of a new government was complete.
On Thursday, Khan pitched for better ties with India but almost immediately fell back on Pakistan’s familiar position of Kashmir being the “core issue" between the neighbours—a stand that is rejected by India. “The more we trade with each other the better it is for ties.... We want to improve our relations with India, if their leadership also wants it."
“This blame game that whatever goes wrong in Pakistan’s Balochistan is because of India and vice versa brings us back to square one," said Khan, seen backed by the Pakistan Army. He was referring to India and Pakistan accusing each other of fomenting terrorism.
“Kashmir is the core issue between the two countries and it should be resolved through talks," he said, adding that the presence of the Indian Army in civilian areas of Kashmir led to human rights violations.
New Delhi has rejected Pakistan’s characterization of Jammu and Kashmir as the “core issue", emphasizing instead Islamabad’s role in supporting, arming and training anti-India terrorists.
Analysts were unsure if the installation of Khan’s civilian administration—only the second such smooth transition of power in Pakistan—would open a window for talks with India, given his strong dependence on the Pakistan Army.
The PTI manifesto talks of “improving our (Pakistan’s) relations with our eastern and western neighbours". It also promises to “work on a blueprint towards resolving the Kashmir issue within the parameters of the UNSC resolutions", which India rejects as outdated.
India-Pakistan ties have been tense for several years, and official talks frozen since 2013. Many attempts to restart a dialogue have run aground mainly due to terrorist attacks in India seen as supported by sections in Pakistan.