Apparent response to India’s willingness to have normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan
NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan has said that only way of resolving dispute with India over Kashmir was dialogue. “Our only dispute is Kashmir and it can only be resolved through dialogue,” he said in Colombo on Wednesday.
He made the statement while addressing the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Trade and Investment Conference which he co-chaired with his counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa. According to a report by PTI, Khan said that he offered India an opportunity to hold peace talks on being elected as prime minister in 2018 but nothing came to pass.
“Immediately when I came into power, I approached our neighbour India and explained to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the way forward for the subcontinent is to resolve our differences through dialogue,” Khan said.
“I didn’t succeed but I am optimistic that eventually sense will prevail. The only way the subcontinent can tackle poverty is by improving trade relations,” he added.
Of late India has also shown interest in normalising relations with Pakistan. Only a fortnight ago, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said that New Delhi wants to have normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. “The onus is on Pakistan for creating such an environment,” Srivastava said.
Khan, who is the first head of state to visit Sri Lanka since the COVID-19 pandemic, said political stability in the region – by maintaining good relations with neighbouring countries – ensured a business-friendly environment that resulted in the people’s overall development.
The Sri Lankan Muslim leaders were allowed to meet the Pakistan prime minister after the opportunity was denied to them initially.
PTI quotes Rauff Hakeem, leader of the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, as saying that that Muslims had a pleasant and fruitful discussion with Khan. He said Imran Khan had expressed confidence in the ability of the Muslim leaders to achieve communal harmony in the island nation.
Khan was under pressure from local Muslim leaders to raise the issue of forced cremations of Muslim COVID-19 victims.
Sri Lanka had adopted a policy of allowing only cremations citing health issues despite opposition from the Muslim community and international rights groups who were insisting on respecting the Islamic religious rite of burials.
Khan congratulated Sri Lanka earlier this month when Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said in Parliament that burials would be allowed for Muslim victims of COVID-19. However, the decision is yet to be implemented.