Resolution of the Kashmir problem is the only way to take the India-Pakistan relationship forward according to Imran Khan, former Pakistan cricket captain and president, Pakistan-Tehreek-e-Insaaf.
Speaking to HT ahead of his session on how to make the bilateral dialogue meaningful, Khan said, "Everything stems from Kashmir. Both sides must sit down and sort out the Kashmir issue."
The peace process between the two neighbours took a dive after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai and recently after the killing of Indian soldiers on the line of control.
“Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmud Qureishi, who was in India when the Mumbai attacks started, tells me the two countries were really close to forward movement on Kashmir. Resolving Kashmir is the solution to all our problems," he said.
Khan, who emerged as a political force in the recently-held elections in Pakistan, however believes that both countries need strong leaders to push the peace process and that, "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cannot take a decision on Kashmir now because elections are looming ahead."
According to him, there will be little progress in relations between the two countries and the dialogue would get a fresh boost of energy only after the next government takes office in 2014. "The honeymoon period is the best time for any government to take hard decisions," he said.
To the question of how Pakistan was reacting to Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Khan was clear.
"Pakistan has reservations about Modi because of the riots and the communal violence in Gujarat, but a dialogue is always there between two democracies. If Modi emerges as the choice of the Indian people, we will have to respect that," he said.
Khan used the Taliban analogy when speaking of Modi, saying, "Hakimullah Mehsud was killed on the eve of talks with the Taliban. But if you stand for peace, then it’s not about personalities. When the BJP-led NDA came to power in India, Pakistan was bracing for new hostilities but Atal Behari Vajpayee broke the thaw. So maybe Modi too will moderate extremes if he comes to power."
Reluctant to openly condemn 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed, who Khan has shared a stage with in the past, he said, “Pakistan is at a crossroads and it is imperative that we have a dialogue with the Taliban and bring some peace in the tribal areas, else India will have more than one militant group to worry about."
HT Leadership Summit: Full Coverage
Interview with Imran Khan