India open to engaging Pakistan, but sans terror: Modi

downloadAmid improved atmospherics in India-Pakistan relations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has underlined that New Delhi is open to dialogue with Islamabad on all outstanding issues but stressed that peace and is possible only in an environment free from terror and violence.

“We remain open to bilateral dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues in an environment free from terrorism and violence. Peace can only thrive when the climate is right,” Mr Modi said in an interview to Hindustan Times, a leading Indian daily.

The prime minister underscored that the Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration  should be “the basis for going forward,” as the two countries take tentative steps to normalize relations.

The perennially prickly ties between the two nuclear-armed rivals froze August last yeat when New Delhi cancelled foreign secretary-level talks by taking strong with separatist Kashmiri Hurriyat leaders. However, the past few weeks have shown an uptick in ties especially after India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s visit to Islamabad last month to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart. In a sign of goodwill, India and Pakistan have rescued each other’s nations from the war-torn Yemen.

The prime minister also spoke about his government’s agenda to create apro-active engagement with India’s South Asian neighbors. In the last few months, Mr Modi travelled to Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, seeking to rekindle relationships which had drifted during the UPA government.  The agenda of his visit has been to maintain peace and retain India’s pre-eminence in South Asia and push 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,” Mr Modi underlined.

Speaking about his foreign policy and maintaining peace in the region, the PM said, “This remains a guiding factor in our foreign policy. The dividends are visible in the quantum leap in relations with Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. But peace cannot co-exist with terrorism, can it?”

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