NEW DELHI: Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi told Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Sunday that peace and progress in the region were linked to “trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism”.
Modi made the remarks when Khan telephoned him to congratulate him on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in the general elections and spoke of his desire for both countries to work together for the good of their people.
This was the first contact between the top leadership of the two countries after tensions sparked by the suicide attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed that killed 40 Indian troopers on February 14. India retaliated with an air strike on a JeM facility at Balakot in Pakistan and this was followed by an aerial engagement along the Line of Control during which an Indian combat jet was shot down and its pilot captured and briefly detained by Pakistan.
A statement from Pakistan’s foreign office said Khan spoke to Modi and congratulated him on the BJP’s electoral victory. Khan expressed his “desire for both countries to work together for the betterment of their peoples”, the statement said.
Khan reiterated “his vision for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia” and said he looked forward to working with Modi to “advance these objectives”.
Modi, according to a statement from the external affairs ministry, “stressed that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism were essential for fostering cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in our region”.
Modi also thanked Khan for his telephone call and greetings and recalled his “initiatives in line with his government’s neighbourhood first policy”. Modi also referred to his earlier suggestion to Khan to fight poverty jointly.
An Indian official familiar with the developments, who didn’t want to be named, said too much shouldn’t be read into the telephonic contact between the two leaders as Pakistan still had not done enough to rein in cross-border terrorism.
A second official, who too didn’t want to be identified, noted the Pakistani premier’s call came three days after the BJP’s win, reflecting the current lack of warmth in bilateral relations.
India and Pakistan have not had any structured dialogue for more than a decade following the 2008 Mumbai attacks by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba. Seven men were arrested in connection with the attacks in Pakistan but none of them have been prosecuted so far. India has linked any resumption of dialogue between the two countries to Pakistan cracking down on cross-border terror.
Modi and Khan are expected to come face to face at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Bishkek on June 13-14 but Indian officials have so far ruled out the possibility of a bilateral meeting.__Hindustan Times