Pakistan has invited incoming India leader Narendra Modi for peace talks to overcome mistrust from decades of border disputes and terrorist attacks that have hampered economic ties between the neighbors.
Modi, set to be sworn in as India’s prime minister after his party won elections last week, received an invitation to visit Islamabad in a telephone call with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif, according to a Pakistani embassy official in New Delhi, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to publicly discuss the matters. Outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never visited Islamabad during his 10 years in office.
“Pakistan and India as neighbors had no other option but to talk to each other and normalize relations to their mutual benefit,” the Pakistani Embassy in New Delhi said in a statement yesterday after High Commissioner Abdul Basit met reporters at the Press Club of India. “People in both countries longed for peace and prosperity.”
Modi said during the election campaign that he would take a more strident position in dealing with neighboring countries than Singh, whose efforts to boost ties with Pakistan were stymied in part by 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over the disputed region of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed in full by both.
“Pakistan will be more better off with an Indian government that is capable of delivering than a wishy-washy government that doesn’t know what its own priorities are,” Salman Haider, an Indian foreign secretary in the 1990s, said in a phone interview. “The biggest prize of all would be a satisfactory outcome on Kashmir.”
An Indian soldier was shot dead and three were injured in a gun battle in Kashmir yesterday, according to the Press Trust of India.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide victory last week, the first parliamentary majority for a single party in three decades. He ousted Singh’s Congress party-led government that had been in power since 2004.
Basit, the Pakistan high commissioner to India, said the decisive mandate given to Modi would help improve ties with Pakistan. Since 1988, more than 14,000 Indian civilians and 6,000 security personnel have been killed in violence in the disputed region of Kashmir, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which doesn’t have similar figures for Pakistani deaths.
“Now the two democratic countries have to decide whether we will bury the hatchet or will continue to be at daggers drawn indefinitely,” Basit said at the Press Club event in New Delhi yesterday, according to the Hindustan Times, in comments confirmed by the Pakistani embassy official. “The two countries and the people cannot afford to move in the wrong direction and to be on the wrong side of the history.”