Creating violence-free environment key for regional peace: Modi to Imran

In their first telephonic conversation after the Balakot airstrikes, Prime Minister-elect NarendraModi told Pakistan PM Imran Khan on Sunday that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism was essential for fostering peace and prosperity in the region.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it was Khan who called up Modi to congratulate him on his re-election.

“The Prime Minister thanked the Prime Minister of Pakistan for his telephone call and greetings,” it said.

Recalling his initiatives in line with his government’s “neighbourhood first” policy, Modi referred to his earlier suggestion to Khan to fight poverty jointly, the MEA said.

“He stressed that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism was essential for fostering cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in our region,” it added.

The telephonic conversation came amid strained bilateral ties since nearly three months following the Pulwama attack and India’s subsequent aerial strikes on a militant training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.

Khan had also congratulated Modi on Twitter last week after the BJP’s massive victory in the general election.

Modi on Thursday led his BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) to a landmark victory for a second five-year term in office, winning 303 seats in the 543-member LokSabha.

Reiterating his vision for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia, Khan said he looked forward to working with Modi to advance these objectives, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said on Twitter.

Khan also expressed his desire for both countries to work together for the betterment of their peoples, he added.

Modi and Khan are scheduled to meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan next month.

After the election results on Thursday, Khan tweeted in both English and Urdu: “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia.”

In April, Khan had said he believed that there might be a better chance of peace talks with India and settling the Kashmir issue if Modi’s BJP won the general election.

Just a day before the announcement of the poll results, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart SushmaSwaraj exchanged pleasantries on the sidelines of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Bishkek. Qureshi conveyed to Swaraj Pakistan’s desire to resolve all issues through dialogue.

The Pakistani foreign minister had said Islamabad was ready to restart talks with the new government in India after the election outcome was known on May 23. India has told Pakistan that “talks and terrorism” cannot go hand-in-hand.

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

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

Meanwhile, the MEA also said Modi received telephone calls from former president of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed and former prime minister of Nepal Madhav Nepal on his poll victory.

“Former president Nasheed congratulated the Prime Minister on the historic mandate and noted that the relationship between the Maldives and India had deepened in recent times,” the MEA said.

He stressed the importance of close cooperation to fight the forces of extremism and radicalisation in the region, it added.

On his part, Modi thanked Nasheed for his felicitation and reiterated his commitment to continue fostering a strong, mutually beneficial and all-round partnership between the two countries.

The MEA said Madhav Nepal warmly congratulated Modi on leading his party and alliance to a grand, historic and landslide poll victory. He also expressed the confidence that India’s emergence as a front-ranking world power would qualitatively uplift the entire region.