Pakistan is ready to talk to any government elected by the Indian voters, including one headed by Narendra Modi, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz told HT.
“We are ready to do business with any leader, including Modi,’’ Aziz said in a telephone interview from London.
Aziz’s comments are significant since they come a day after Pakistan army chief General Raheel Sharif’s controversial remarks, where he referred to Kashmir as Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’.
On Wednesday, Sharif had claimed that Kashmir was an internationally-recognized dispute that needed to be resolved in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiris and in line with the United Nations’ resolution for lasting peace in the region.
The army chief’s comments were viewed by Indian strategic experts as a signal by the Army to the civilian leadership on the Kashmir issue, but when asked, Aziz denied this.
“That is our standing position. Kashmir is an issue that both India and Pakistan need to negotiate and remains on the dialogue table but if statements are made during the course of your elections about Kashmir being an atoot ang (integral part) of India, there will be reactions and responses,” Aziz said.
Backing his statement that indicated Pakistan’s willingness to work with Modi, Aziz emphasized that the last time there was any real progress between the two neighbours was “under a BJP-led government with Vajpayee as PM.’’
Vajpayee, in 1999, had undertaken a bus journey across the Wagah border to Lahore when Nawaz Sharif was the PM of Pakistan.
The two had signed the Lahore declaration in which both countries committed themselves to ‘’intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir’’. In the declaration, both also agreed to confidence-building measures in the nuclear and conventional military fields.
Reiterating his government’s desire for normalizing ties with India, Aziz said, “Peace with India was Nawaz Sharif’s poll plank and he launched his peace mission immediately after becoming PM. In fact, he told me that he was taking up peace as a poll issue so it will help him once he comes to power. We had a good start with Manmohan Singh and now look forward to restarting the dialogue once a new government is in place in Delhi.”