Modi calls for talks with Pakistan in letter to new PM Imran Khan

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Islamabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for dialogue with Pakistan in a letter to its newly-elected leader and Pakistan also saw talks with its old rival as the “only way forward”, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Monday.

New Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan offered an olive branch to India after his election victory last month, proposing talks to resolve a long-standing dispute over the Kashmir region. The two leaders spoke by telephone late last month.

“The Indian prime minister has sent a letter in which he congratulated Imran Khan and … he has sent a message to open talks,” Qureshi told reporters in the capital, Islamabad.

As per media reports, an Indian foreign ministry official has confirmed that Modi wrote to Khan on Saturday and “expressed India’s commitment to build good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan and pursue meaningful and constructive engagement for the benefit of the people of the region”.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since the end of British colonial rule in 1947, two of them over the disputed Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir, where their two armies face off other and occasionally exchange fire.

India has long accused Pakistan of encouraging separatist Muslim militants fighting Indian rule in the Indian part of Kashmir. The militants occasionally launch bloody attacks in Indian towns and cities.

Afghanistan has also for years accused Pakistan of supporting Taliban militants fighting the Indian- and Western-backed Kabul government.

However, Pakistan denies aiding insurgent groups in both Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Khan, in his offer to India last month, said Pakistan was ready to respond positively to any effort on dialogue. “If India comes and takes one step toward us, we will take two,” said Khan, who had been bellicose towards India while campaigning for last month’s election.

Qureshi repeated a call for a resumption of talks, which have made little progress in recent years. “We need a continued and uninterrupted dialogue. This is our only way forward,” he said.

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