Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to try to extend a hand of peace to archrival India following elections in the neighboring country, after a similar offer was “rebuffed.”
Khan made the remarks on October 23 at an investment conference in Saudi Arabia.
“When I won the elections and came to power, the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan told the crowd at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, adding that the overture was later “rebuffed” by New Delhi.
“What we are hoping is that we will wait until the elections, then, again, we will resume our peace talks with India,” Khan said, referring to India’s nationwide polls expected in April or May 2019.
In September, a rare meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries was scheduled on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
But India called off the meeting one day after it was announced, following the killing of an Indian border guard in the disputed region of Kashmir.
Instead, in an angry speech to the UN, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj accused Pakistan of harboring terrorists and rejected the notion that India is sabotaging peace talks with Pakistan, calling it “a complete lie.”
Swaraj pointed to the fact that Osama bin Laden lived quietly in Pakistan before he was found and killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL team.
She also said the mastermind of a 2008 attack that killed 168 people in Mumbai, India, “still roams the streets of Pakistan with impunity.” Pakistan says there is not enough evidence to arrest the suspect.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi responded to Swaraj’s criticism in his speech to the UN by declaring that India “preferred politics over peace.”
India has long accused Pakistan of supporting militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two nuclear archrivals but claimed in full by both since independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
“One thing Pakistan needs now more than anything else is peace and stability,” Khan told the investment conference on October 23. “Stability means peace with all neighbors…Our problems now are with Afghanistan and with India.”
Khan’s call for peace talks with India comes as his administration seeks funds to bolster Pakistan’s deteriorating finances.