New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes Pakistan—often accused by neighbours India and Afghanistan of fomenting terrorism and supporting terrorist networks in the region—will work towards creating a secure, stable and prosperous neighbourhood. In an interview to news agency ANI over the weekend, when asked if India was open to a dialogue with Pakistan’s Imran Khan-led government and whether India would participate in the Saarc meet that Islamabad will host this year, Modi seemed to steer clear of any definite answers.
“I have always said that we wish to have good neighbourly relations. We have also taken various initiatives in this regard. I recently congratulated Imran Khan on his victory in the elections. We hope that Pakistan would work for a safe, secure, stable and prosperous region, free from terror and violence," the prime minister said.
India-Pakistan peace talks stalled in 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 met 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.
India also skipped the 2016 Saarc summit in Islamabad after a terrorist attack on an army garrison in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, left 18 soldiers dead.
The 25 July Pakistan elections, which has seen cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) emerging as the single largest party with 116 seats, has however ignited hopes of a thaw in India-Pakistan ties.
Khan who was to take oath on 11 August, is now expected to be sworn in on 18 August, according to Pakistani media reports quoting PTI senator Faisal Javed. The PTI on Monday formally announced Khan as the prime ministerial candidate.
In a statement on 28 July, India’s foreign ministry said that New Delhi desired a “prosperous and progressive Pakistan at peace with its neighbours". The statement had also added that New Delhi hoped the newly elected government would work constructively to build a safe, stable, secure and developed South Asia, one that is free of terrorism and violence.
India’s comments followed remarks by Imran Khan on 26 July in which he said he wanted to have good relations with India and work to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue. “We should sit across (the table) and resolve the issues instead of we blaming India for problems in Balochistan and they blame us for problems in Kashmir. I can say that if you (India) will take one step forward, we will take two steps forward," Khan had said.
On 30 July, Prime Minister Modi, in a telephone conversation, congratulated Imran Khan on his party emerging as the single largest party in Pakistan elections and also “reiterated his vision of peace and development in the entire neighbourhood," an Indian foreign ministry statement said.
On Friday, Indian high commissioner to Pakistan, Ajay Bisaria, called on Imran Khan and put forth India’s concerns on terrorism and cross border infiltration besides gifting Khan a bat autographed by the entire Indian cricket team.