Islamabad: Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday expressed willingness to restart the stalled Indo-Pak peace process and said the two countries must engage in dialogue to resolve their differences, including on the Kashmir issue, and start trading.
In his first direct comments on Indo-Pak ties since taking oath as the Prime Minister on Saturday, Khan said the best way to alleviate poverty and uplift the people of the subcontinent was to resolve the differences through dialogue and start trading.
“To move forward Pakistan and India must dialogue and resolve their conflicts including Kashmir,” Khan tweeted separately in both English and Urdu.
The India-Pakistan ties nose-dived in recent years with no bilateral talks taking place. The ties between the two countries had strained after the Uri attacks in 2016.
The sentencing of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav to death by a Pakistani military court in April over espionage charges last year further deteriorated the bilateral relations.
The two sides often accuse each other of ceasefire violations along the Line of Control, resulting in casualties.
Khan also defended Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is embroiled in a controversy after attending his oath-taking ceremony, describing the Indian cricketer-turned-politician as an “ambassador of peace.”
“I want to thank Sidhu for coming to Pakistan for my oath taking. He was an ambassador of peace and was given amazing love and affection by people of Pakistan. Those in India who targeted him are doing a great disservice to peace in the subcontinent – without peace our people cannot progress,” Prime Minister Khan said.
The Punjab minister was slammed by the Opposition and earned the displeasure even from his own Chief Minister Amrinder Singh over his decision to visit Pakistan and hug its Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa at the swearing-in ceremony of Khan.
On Sunday night, Khan in his first address to the nation as Prime Minister said that Pakistan would work to have “best relations” with all its neighbours and hold talks to normalise ties.
Earlier, in his address after leading his party to victory in the general elections last month, Khan had said Pakistan is ready to improve its ties with India and his government would like the leaders of the two sides to resolve all disputes, including the “core issue” of Kashmir, through talks.
“If they take one step towards us, we will take two, but at least (we) need a start,” he had said.
He had said good India-Pakistan relations will be beneficial for the entire region and suggested to increase trade ties between the two neighbours.
Bilateral trade witnessed a slight drop in 2016-17 to USD 2.28 billion, with exports from India at USD 1.83 billion and imports from Pakistan to India at USD 456.33 million. The imports from Pakistan have shown a gradual declining trend since 2012-13, when it touched USD 541.87 billion, according to official figures.
The data reveals that the official trade between New Delhi and Islamabad accounted for only about 0.31 per cent of India’s total global commerce.
India had accorded the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan in 1996. A Pakistan Cabinet decision of November 2, 2011 to reciprocate remains unimplemented.
Pakistan substituted in March 2012 a ‘positive list’ of a little more than 1950 tariff lines, permitted for import from India, by a ‘Negative List’ of 1209 lines that cannot be imported from India.