Imran Khan asks India to initiate steps to build peace and healthy bilateral relations to reap economic benefits

Published : March 18, 2021 15:32 IST

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan. Photo: B.K. BANGASH/AP

 

Amid signs of a possible easing of tensions between India and Pakistan, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that if peace was given a chance, India and the entire neighbourhood in South Asia could leverage economic dividends through trade in the resources-rich Central Asian region.

Khan’s statement assumes significance as India and Pakistan have recently announced a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC). Khan made the comment while delivering the inaugural address at the launch of the two-day Islamabad Security Dialogue. He said his government had done everything to forge better ties with India and that it was for India to reciprocate.

India put the onus on Pakistan last month to create a neighbourhood free of hostility and terror. Imran Khan appeared to do the same as well. “India will have to take the first step. Unless they do so, we cannot do much,” he said.

India maintains that “talks and terror” cannot go together and has asked Islamabad to act against terror groups operating from its soil which have launched attacks on India.

Importantly, Imran Khan said that peace in the region was contingent on resolving the Kashmir conflict, describing it as the “biggest hurdle” between the two nuclear-armed nations.

Said Khan: “If India gives the Kashmiris their right under the U.N. [Resolutions], it will be greatly beneficial for Pakistan as well as for India.” He added that healthy bilateral relations would mean “India can access Central Asia” and reap economic benefits.

India and Pakistan announced ceasefire recently, agreed on a visit by the first sporting team from Pakistan in years and decided to hold talks on the Indus water treaty next week. Foreign Ministers of both countries have also been invited to the same regional conference on Afghanistan, to be held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on March 30, which could be the first such opportunity for senior officials to meet since 2019.

The relations between India and Pakistan deteriorated after the Pulwama attack of February 2019 and the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by India in August 2019.

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