Better chance of peace with India if BJP wins elections: Imran Khan

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he believes there may be a better chance of peace talks with India and settle the Kashmir issue if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party BJP wins the general elections.

India will go to elections in seven phases beginning from Thursday.

“Perhaps if the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party)….wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached,” Khan told a small group of foreign journalists in an interview.

He said other parties would be afraid of right-wing backlash in case of settlement on the Kashmir issue.

Khan said Kashmir was the central issue between the two countries.

India maintains that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country and Pakistan is in “illegal occupation of a part of the state’s territory”.

Tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14.

Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force (IAF) carried out a counter-militancy operation, hitting the biggest JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured an IAF pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.

Khan has said that Pakistan was taking action against all militants groups including the JeM.

Khan said that groups like the JeM were being disarmed under a serious drive to eliminate militancy from Pakistan.

“We have taken the religious schools of these groups under state control. It is first serious effort to disarm the militant outfits,” he said.

Khan said action was taken because it was important for the future of Pakistan. He also rejected the impression that Pakistan was compelled by the world to taken such an action. Meanwhile, batting for dialogue with India, Khan has said that Kashmir issue has to be settled and “cannot keep boiling like it is”, the BBC reported.

“…Peace with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir would be tremendous for the wider region,” Khan was quoted as having said by the BBC on Wednesday.

Khan, a former cricketer who became the prime minister eight months ago, said the nuclear-armed neighbours could only settle their differences with dialogue.

Asked what message he wanted to send to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his country, Khan told the BBC’s John Simpson that the Kashmir issue “has to be settled” and “cannot keep boiling like it is”.

“The number-one tasks of the two governments is how are we going to reduce poverty and the way we reduce poverty is by settling our differences through dialogue and there is only one difference, which is Kashmir,” he said.

Khan, as per the report, said the confrontation was very dangerous for both India and Pakistan. “Once you respond, no one can predict where it can go from there,” he said.

If India had “come back and then again attacked Pakistan, Pakistan would have no choice but to respond,” he added. “So in that situation, two nuclear-armed countries, I just felt it was very irresponsible.”