India's Modi calls for talks with
Pakistan in letter to new PM Khan
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[August 20, 2018]
By Saad Sayeed
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister
Narendra Modi has called for dialogue with Pakistan in a letter to its
newly elected leader and Pakistan also saw talks with its old rival as
the "only way forward", Pakistan's foreign minister said on Monday.
New Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan offered an olive branch to India
after his election victory last month, proposing talks to resolve a
long-standing dispute over the Kashmir region. The two leaders spoke by
telephone late last month.
"The Indian prime minister has sent a letter in which he congratulated
Imran Khan and ... he has sent a message to open talks," Pakistani
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in the capital,
An Indian foreign ministry official confirmed Modi wrote to Khan on
Saturday and "expressed India's commitment to build good neighborly
relations between India and Pakistan and pursue meaningful and
constructive engagement for the benefit of the people of the region".
The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought three wars since the end of
British colonial rule in 1947, two of them over the disputed
Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, where their two armies face
off other and occasionally exchange fire.
India has long accused Pakistan of encouraging separatist Muslim
militants fighting Indian rule in the Indian part of Kashmir. The
militants occasionally launch bloody attacks in Indian towns and cities.
Afghanistan has also for years accused Pakistan of supporting Taliban
militants fighting the Indian- and Western-backed Kabul government.
Pakistan denies aiding insurgent groups in both Kashmir and Afghanistan.
Khan, in his offer to India last month, said Pakistan was ready to
respond positively to any effort on dialogue.
"If India comes and takes one step toward us, we will take two," said
Khan, who had been bellicose towards India while campaigning for last
Qureshi repeated a call for a resumption of talks, which have made
little progress in recent years.
[to top of second column]
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves as he leaves after
addressing the nation during Independence Day celebrations at the
historic Red Fort in Delhi, India, August 15, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan
"We need a continued and uninterrupted dialogue. This is our only
way forward," he said.
But Pakistani security policy is largely determined by its powerful
military, not by civilian governments.
Pakistan's former civilian government, let by Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif, also sought better ties with India.
Hopes soared following a surprise visit by Modi to Sharif in the
eastern Pakistani city of Lahore in December 2015, the first such
visit by an Indian prime minister in more than a decade.
But the hopes unraveled weeks later when militants attacked an
Indian army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
India blamed Pakistan for the attack. Pakistan denied that.
Sharif's efforts to improve ties with India were seen as undermining
his relations with his army.
Qureshi, who served as foreign minister in a previous civilian
government, from 2008 to 2011, said his ministry would be in charge
of foreign policy, but would take advice from "national security
institutions", drawing a comparison to the way the U.S. Central
Intelligence Agency advises the U.S. government.
He said he would soon visit Afghanistan bearing a message of
friendship and "new beginnings".
(Additional reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in New Delhi; Editing by
Drazen Jorgic, Robert Birsel)
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