PM Imran Khan says Pakistanis 'on one page' in seeking friendship with India
Story Code : 763883
Khan made the remarks in a speech to open a new border crossing with India in the vast Punjab province on Wednesday. The premier stated that his government and the army were both intent on establishing a "civilized relationship" with India.
"I the prime minister, my political party, the rest of our political parties, our army, all our institutions are all on one page. We want to move forward," Khan said, adding, "If India takes one step forward then we will take two steps forward towards friendship."
Making a strong case for peace, the Pakistani premier also pointed out that the Kashmir dispute can be resolved only through talks and a healthy respect for humanity.
The cricketer-turned-politician also asserted that only "fools" would speak of war between two nuclear-armed countries like India and Pakistan.
"Everybody loses in a nuclear war. Hatred will take us nowhere," he said.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Khan said that while there has been bad blood between the two countries for years, peace can come about as long as the stakeholders work towards it in all honesty.
"For 70 years, we have been fighting with each other... India points fingers at Pakistan, and Pakistan points fingers at India. There have been mistakes on both sides, but how long must we keep playing this blame-game? Every time we take one step forward, something happens to make us go back two steps," he added.
"We still do not have the resolve to decide that, no matter what, we must improve our ties," he said. "France and Germany, who have fought so many wars, are now living as neighbors. They have trade ties despite killing thousands of each other's people. But their leaders one day decided that we will break their shackles and they did."
The latest remarks by the premier appear to be another attempt to improve fractious relations with India.
Khan had earlier called on his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to engage in bilateral efforts to resolve outstanding disputes. Khan called for a meeting between the two nations' foreign ministers on the sidelines of the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September.
India cancelled the rare meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart just a day after announcing the talks would take place in New York.
The Foreign Ministry in New Delhi said its decision was to protest the killing of Indian security personnel in Kashmir and a Pakistani postage stamp it said was “glorifying” an anti-India fighter who was killed in the disputed Himalayan region last year.
Islamabad immediately rejected New Delhi’s charges as excuses to enable it to avoid holding talks before national elections next year.
Tensions are high in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where the Muslim-majority population stages regular protests against the Indian rule, demanding autonomy from New Delhi or a merger with Pakistan.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting pro-independence fighters, an allegation rejected by the Pakistani government.
Islamabad, in turn, is critical of India’s heavy military deployment to Kashmir, some 500,000 soldiers, and its crackdown against the region’s Muslim population.
Armed battles between Indian forces and militants over the years have killed nearly 70,000 people, mostly civilians.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both since the two partitioned and gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed territory. Despite a 2003 ceasefire agreement, sporadic skirmishes continue in Kashmir.