The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday downplayed the claims made by a Pakistani newspaper that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan that New Delhi was ready for talks. The ministry said that Modi and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had responded to Islamabad’s renewed call for dialogue by conveying New Delhi’s desire to engage with all countries, including Pakistan, for the prosperity of South Asia.
“As per the established diplomatic practice, PM and EAM have responded to the congratulatory messages [after Modi’s re-election last month] received from their counterparts in Pakistan,” said the external affairs ministry. “In their messages, they have highlighted that India seeks normal and cooperative relations with all neighbours, including Pakistan.”
In their letters, Modi and Jaishankar emphasised the need for an “atmosphere free from the shadow of terror and violence”, and said it was important to build an environment of trust that is free of terror and hostility”, the ministry added.
Last week, Imran Khan had called on Narendra Modi to use the big mandate he won in the Lok Sabha elections to improve relations between the two nations. He also wrote to Modi seeking talks to resolve the Kashmir dispute and congratulated him for his victory in the Lok Sabha elections. On April 10, Khan had said there was a better chance of peace talks with India if the BJP returned to power.
At last week’s Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Islamabad would hold talks with New Delhi on the “basis of equality” and in a “dignified manner”.
However, India has said it will not hold talks with Pakistan until it gives up its state policy of supporting terrorism. At his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Bishkek, Modi raised the problem of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. He said India expects Islamabad to take “concrete action” to create an atmosphere free of terror before resuming dialogue.