In his first interview to an Indian newspaper after winning the general elections, Pakistan's Prime Minister-elect Nawaz Sharif, 62, reached out to India on Monday, promising that he would not allow his country to export terror.
Sharif also pitched for enhanced trade ties. In a bold move, he assured India he would rein in the jehadi elements.
Excerpts from a telephonic interview from Lahore, in which he also accepted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's invitation to visit India:
What is your biggest challenge?
The toughest challenge will be to revive the economy. My priority is to pull the country out of the economic crisis and if we are able to do that, we will be able to solve a lot of problems.
I am glad that I will be taking over from a government that was allowed to complete its term.
That's important in Pakistan where democracy has to be strengthened. I have been PM twice before and both times I was not allowed to complete my term.
India remains very concerned about terror being exported from Pakistani soil. What assurances, if any, can you give New Delhi?
You know my policy on terrorism. Let there be no doubt that we will not allow terrorism to be exported to India from Pakistani soil.
We made great progress in 1999 with the signing of the Lahore Declaration before I was forced into exile. And let's not forget that Pakistan too is suffering at the hands of terrorists.
Nawaz Sharif gestures while speaking to members of the media at his residence in Lahore. AP
Terrorism is the legacy of Pervez Musharraf.
Dictatorship breeds radicalism and terrorism, and terrorism is a direct outcome of Musharraf's policies. He assured India he would not allow Pakistani soil to be used to export terror but it was a false promise.
Let me tell you - and through you, the citizens of India - that we want friendship with India and will not allow any more Kargils and Mumbai-like terror attacks. Terrorism can only hurt both India and Pakistan.
You are giving India a huge assurance, Mr Sharif, but the army has to be on board any peace process.
The army will be on board.
I don't think there is any opposition from the army to better ties with India. Yes, during Musharraf's time there were problems, but Musharraf acted in his personal capacity. The army is a professional organisation.
You say this despite being thrown out in a coup by General Musharraf. He did have the support of the army when he deposed you.
The army was not in favour of what Musharraf did. I am confident that the army will be on board as far as the peace process between our two countries is concerned.
I assure you that I am committed to resolving all outstanding issues including Kashmir. The Lahore Declaration of 1999 is a good starting point. I am determined to restore the authority of the PM's office. The army will report to the PM, who is the boss.
In spite of the PPP government wanting to grant India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, it couldn't because of pressure from right-wing parties, Jamaat ud Dawah and its military arm, Lashkar-e-Taiba. Will you be able to overcome that pressure?
I am in favour of granting the MFN status and promoting trade and business ties to the benefit of both nations. Economy and trade are my favourite subjects.
Wait and watch…we will come out with bold economic policies.
But what about the jehadi opposition including from the Lashkar-e-Taiba?
We have enormous problems at hand but my priority is to promote business relations. I am confident we will be able to carry everybody along, including the jehadi elements which have to be reined in.
Don't worry on this count.
Dr Manmohan Singh has invited you to visit India. Will you be coming soon?
It will be a pleasure to visit India. Manmohan Singh spoke to me and I am grateful to him for extending warm wishes. I look forward to meeting him.
Let me put it like this: We have to meet and work towards a peaceful and prosperous south Asia.