Indian PM says all issues can be discussed but ‘in an environment free from terrorism and violence’
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said India is open to dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues but in an environment free of violence.
“We remain open to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues in an environment free from terrorism and violence,” Modi told Hindustan Times in an interview.
“The Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration have to be the basis for going forward,” he said, referring to two crucial governance treaties agreed between the troubled neighbours to normalise relations and curb a nuclear arms race in South Asia.
Modi signalled his desire to build bridges with the neighbouring country when he invited South Asian leaders, including his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, to his inauguration last year. He followed it up with his ‘sari-and-shawl’ diplomacy with Sharif, which rekindled hopes that the détente was well-intentioned.
Ties went into a freeze after the Pakistani envoy in New Delhi held meetings with the Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders last year despite being asked by the Indian Foreign Ministry not to do so. Since then, the two sides have taken tentative steps towards a possible resumption in dialogue, with Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar visiting Islamabad last month for talks with his Pakistani counterpart.
“Peace can only thrive when the climate is right,” Modi said, when asked when the bilateral dialogue could resume.
Modi also spoke on his pro-active engagement with India’s South Asian neighbours, ties that had drifted under the previous UPA government, sparking fears that such apathy would send these nations into China’s arms.
Over the past months, the Indian prime minister has undertaken visits to several of these countries, seeking to reinvigorate relationships crucial to India retaining its pre-eminence in South Asia and pushing back any attempts by China to make inroads into the region.
“We want peace and prosperity in South Asia, we want SAARC to flourish. This vision of regional cooperation and connectivity impelled me to invite the prime minister of Pakistan and other SAARC leaders to our swearing-in-ceremony,” Modi said.
“This remains a guiding factor in our foreign policy. The dividends are visible in the quantum leap in relations with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. But peace cannot co-exist with terrorism, can it?”