Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday called up Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate him on his massive victory in the Lok Sabha elections, reiterating Islamabad’s desire to work with Delhi. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Sunday said in a statement that PM Modi told his Pakistani counterpart on Sunday that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism was essential for fostering peace and prosperity in the region. The MEA said Khan 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,” the MEA 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.
This was the first direct communication between the two leaders since the February 14 Pulwama terror attack and the subsequent Balakot air strike carried out by India. On May 23, on the day of election results, Khan had tweeted to Modi on his thumping win. “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,” he tweeted.
Modi and Khan are scheduled to meet at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan next month.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mohammad Faisal tweeted that Khan spoke to Modi and conveyed that he looked forward to working with him for the betterment of the people of the two countries.
“PM (Khan) spoke to PM Modi and congratulated him on his party’s electoral victory in Lok Sabha elections. PM expressed his desire for both countries to work together for betterment of their peoples. Reiterating his vision for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia, the Prime Minister said he looked forward to working with Prime Minister Modi to advance these objectives,” Faisal said.
Over the last years, India has refused any initiative for talks, contending that cross-border terror has to stop before talks can begin.
Relations with Pakistan --- tottering since the terror strike at Uri in 2016 --- took a nosedive after a Jaish-e-Mohammed fidayeen killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Pulwama on February 14. Days later, India conducted air strikes on a Jaish camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26. The Pakistan Air Force struck back, targeting civilian and military installations in India and captured Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
In April, Khan was quoted as saying that he saw a better chance of peace talks with India if PM Modi’s BJP wins the elections. The cricketer-turned-politician had said if the next Government in India were led by the Congress party, it might be “too scared” to seek a settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir, fearing a backlash.