Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Photo: AFP
Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Photo: AFP

Imran Khan: Won’t allow terrorists to use Pakistan soil to attack India

The Pakistan PM says he is ready for talks on any issue with Modi as Islamabad wants peace with Delhi

Islamabad/New Delhi: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday said he was ready for talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and it was not in Islamabad’s interest to allow terrorist groups to use its territory and plan attacks outside Pakistan.

The comments came a day after Khan had underlined that Kashmir was the key dispute between India and Pakistan, and seemingly had drawn a contrast between Modi and Punjab Congress minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, stating that the latter was a politician willing to take risks. He had also called for decisive leadership on the part of India and Pakistan to sort out the Kashmir issue.

On Wednesday, Khan had also said that the Pakistan government, political parties and the country’s powerful military wanted peace with India, and were united in their stand. Khan laid the foundation stone of the Kartarpur corridor, linking the Sikh holy shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib in Gurdaspur district of Punjab in India, with Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur in Pakistan.

The route aims to allow Indian devotees to travel to Kartarpur in Pakistan’s Narowal district, which is only 3km from the Indian side of the border. Until now, most Indian devotees have had to contend with a darshan using binoculars installed at the Dera Baba Nanak Sahib.

Speaking to Indian journalists at his office in Islamabad, Khan said: “It is not in our interest to allow use of Pakistan’s territory for terror outside." This was in the context of India’s position that talks and terrorism cannot go together and that Pakistan must take effective and credible action to stop providing shelter to terrorist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Khan’s statement is seen as significant, but New Delhi seems to be a bit circumspect, given that in the past, Pakistan had made similar commitments, but nothing came of those efforts.

An India-Pakistan joint statement signed in 2004, when the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had visited Islamabad for a South Asian heads of state and governments’ summit says: “President (general Pervez) Musharraf reassured Prime Minister Vajpayee that he will not permit any territory under Pakistan’s control to be used to support terrorism in any manner."

The joint statement has been repeatedly cited by Indian leaders and officials to their Pakistani counterparts, however, several terrorist attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people were killed, have taken place since then.

There was no immediate comment from India’s foreign ministry on Khan’s offer of talks with Modi.

In his comments on Thursday, Khan also said that the mindset of the people had changed and that Pakistanis wanted peace with India. When asked whether it is possible to resolve the Kashmir issue, the Pakistan PM said: “Nothing is impossible.. I am ready for talks on any issue. There can’t be a military solution for Kashmir."

On India’s demand that the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks be brought to justice, especially Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the Lashkar -e-Taiba, Khan said that there was already a clampdown on him and his activities, besides UN sanctions against him.

The opening of the Kartarpur corridor has raised hopes of a thaw between India and Pakistan. Last week, Modi had likened the corridor to a possible bridge between the two countries, However, on Wednesday, Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said the corridor opening was on a separate track, in response to a long-standing demand from India’s Sikh community. Talks with Pakistan would happen only after Islamabad clamps down on terrorism emanating from its soil, she added.

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