Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that the Kashmir conflict was the “only issue” coming in the way of building better ties between his country and India, while also hindering sustained peace in South Asia.
The Pakistani prime minister made the remarks while addressing the first edition of the Islamabad Security Dialogue, a two-day summit organised by Pakistan’s National Security Division in collaboration with the country’s leading think tanks.
“There is one issue that is stopping us, and that is basically Kashmir,” Khan said. “We will make our efforts but India must take the first step. Till they take the first step, unfortunately we cannot move forward.”
Khan expressed readiness to hold talks with his neighbour, only if New Delhi reversed steps taken by it in 2019 by changing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and gave Kashmiris the right to self-determination.
The prime minister said it was “unfortunate” that India had rebuffed the Pakistani government’s efforts for peace. He said that there was a “total breakdown” of ties between the two countries on August 5, 2019, when the Narendra Modi government ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by abrogating Article 370, and split the region into two Union Territories.
Khan added that he hoped India gave the people of Kashmir “the right to choose for themselves” according to the United Nations Security Council resolutions. “This way, the whole region [South Asia] will change,” Khan said. “The changes will not just be good for Pakistan but would also greatly benefit India.”
Khan said that currently, there was a lot of poverty in India. “And if this poverty is to be removed then our trading and economic ties must be strong and our regional connectivity should increase,” the Pakistani leader said. “India will benefit from being connected to Central Asia.”
Last month, Khan had welcomed the decision taken by India and Pakistan to halt cross-border firing along the Line of Control under the ceasefire agreement, but said that the onus of creating an environment for further progress rested with India.
He said that Pakistan had always stood for peace and was ready to move forward to resolve all outstanding matters with India through dialogue.