Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif raises Kashmir issue; Modi addresses terrorism
The newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told the parliament on Monday that "durable peace" with India is not possible until "the Kashmir dispute is resolved." Sharif asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come forward and address "the Kashmir issue" so the two countries could concentrate on tackling poverty and unemployment. Modi expressed that he desires a "terror-free" Kashmir.
- Shehbaz, 70, was elected as the 23rd PM of Pakistan on Monday after the opposition ousted the Imran Khan's government from power late on Saturday night.
- He reportedly secured 174 votes in the 342-member National Assembly. Notably, the winning candidate should get the support of at least 172 lawmakers.
- The younger brother of former PM Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz was formerly the CM of Punjab.
Hours after Shehbaz's comments, PM Modi congratulated him on his election and said that India desires "peace and stability in a region free of terrorism." "India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people," Modi wrote on Twitter.
Notably, New Delhi is closely watching the developments in Pakistan with "cautious optimism" for any headway in bilateral ties, sources informed The Indian Express. Sources in the Indian strategic establishment maintained that the regime change might offer a "diplomatic opening," and its implications may be far-reaching. Pakistan's Sharif family has always been an advocate of better ties with India.
Citing Sharif's last India visit in 2013, officials told TIE that he is well placed to take forward the bilateral conversation. "He was very focused and result-oriented in his meetings, and really wanted to build on the ties between the two countries," a source said. He had also pitched for "peaceful dialogue" to solve issues between two countries, saying, "war is not an option."
On his meeting with the then Indian PM Manmohan Singh, Sharif is said to have told Singh that "both trade and commerce have to be combined with strategic issues." "Only the exchange of cultural troupes is not enough. We have to resolve problems through talks...not an option to brush problems under the carpet....have to address them (problems)," Shehbaz had said.
Further, Sharif is known for his focus and commitment to infrastructure projects. He is reportedly credited for many roads, bridges, flyovers and transport projects in Pakistan's Punjab province. Since Sharif is keen to deliver before the next general elections in 2023, improvement of trade ties between India and Pakistan could provide a much-needed boost to Pakistan's economy.
Currently, the India-Pakistan relationship is a bit stable, with both sides adhering to the ceasefire agreed upon in February 2021. Experts believe this is helping in building confidence at both the higher political-military level as well as the ground level. Moreover, India's humanitarian help to Afghanistan—transportation of wheat via Pakistan—has shown that there is scope for cooperation for "limited purposes," sources told TIE.