Imran, Modi had positive talk, says Indian diplomat


–Indian high commissioner says both premiers support peace and stability in region

ISLAMABAD: The telephonic conversation between Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi was positive, said Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria on Sunday.

Addressing an Iftar dinner hosted by Indian High Commission in Islamabad, the Indian diplomat said both prime ministers support “peace and stability” in the region.

The ceremony was attended by several political leaders and diplomats.

PM Imran had called Modi last week and congratulated the Indian leader on the runaway election victory of his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said a statement by Pakistan’s Foreign Office.

“The prime minister expressed his desire for both countries to work together for the betterment of their peoples,” it had added.

Also, the two prime ministers are likely to meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on June 13-14.

The meeting will be the first time the two leaders meet since PM Imran assumed office in August 2018. The meeting is also expected to kickstart talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

In April, Imran Khan was quoted as saying that he saw a better chance of peace talks with India if PM Modi’s BJP won 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.

“Perhaps if the BJP – a right-wing party – wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached,” Imran Khan was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) won the polls with a thumping victory, gaining 303 seats in Lok Sabha.

Modi’s election victory was on the plank of national security, a campaign that gained strength in February when he sent warplanes into Pakistan to hit a suspected militant camp after a bomb attack in occupied Kashmir led to the death of 40 Indian police officers.

India’s move to send warplanes fanned the flames of nationalism and helped the BJP turn voters’ attention away from the flailing economy and onto matters of national security.

Tensions between Pakistan and India escalated dramatically on February 14 when a young Kashmiri rammed an explosives-laden car into an Indian paramilitary convoy, killing at least 44 soldiers. India was quick to blame Pakistan for the suicide bombing.

PM Imran offered every possible help in the investigation, but India turned down the offer and whipped up war hysteria.

On February 26, the Indian Air Force (IAF) violated Pakistani airspace. The country’s top civil and military leadership declared the violation of airspace by Indian fighter jets “uncalled for aggression” and decided that the country would respond at a “time and place of its choosing”.

On February 27, Pakistan announced it had shot down two Indian fighter jets that attempted to violate its airspace and captured an Indian pilot. The military’s media wing later released a video of the pilot, who introduced himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan.

A few hours later, PM Imran took the nation into confidence over the armed forces’ response. As escalating tensions fuelled concerns of all-out war between nuclear-tipped Pakistan, the prime minister warned of catastrophic consequences should “better sense” not prevail.

Pakistan later released the captured pilot as a peace gesture, drawing applause from the international community over its efforts for diffusing tensions.