New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday congratulated Imran Khan, chairperson of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party which has emerged as the single largest party in the recent Pakistan general elections.
This is the first contact between the two since the elections last week though Khan has met Modi at least once earlier in November 2015 while on a private visit to New Delhi.
Modi’s telephone conversation with Khan comes days after the Pakistani cricketer turned politician seemed to call for dialogue with India.
While khan’s call for improved trade ties with India — issued on Thursday— is likely to be accepted in New Delhi, his references to Kashmir as the core issue and alleged human rights violations by the Indian army in Kashmir could act as impediments to any resumption of peace talks between India and Pakistan.
“Prime Minister (Modi) expressed hope that democracy will take deeper roots in Pakistan," an Indian foreign ministry statement said late Monday.
“Prime Minister (Modi) also reiterated his vision of peace and development in the entire neighbourhood," the statement added.
Khan’s PTI scooped up 116 seats out of the directly contested 272 seat in the 25 July polls. Though he is short of the 137 seats required for a majority in the National Assembly, Khan is expected to take oath at Pakistan’s next prime minister on 11 August, according to news reports.
On Saturday, India had welcomed the conduct of polls in Pakistan and reiterated New Delhi’s 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."
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar had also said India “desires a prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbours".
On Thursday, a day after the vote in Pakistan, Khan had pitched for better ties with India but almost immediately added Kashmir was 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," Khan had said, adding that the presence of the Indian Army in civilian areas of Kashmir led to human rights violations.
Peace talks between India and Pakistan have been at a standstill since 2013 and efforts to get them started have come to naught, mainly due to several terrorist attacks in India seen as perpetrated by Pakistan based terrorist groups. Modi had the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif several times and also visited Pakistan in a surprise stopover on his way back from an official trip to Russia in December 2015. But a terrorist attack on India’s Pathankot Air Force station in January 2016 scuttled plans for a revival of peace talks.