Pakistan wants an “uninterrupted, continued dialogue” with rival India, its new foreign minister said on Aug. 20, stressing the importance of talks between the countries, who have fought three wars.
“We are not only two neighbors but we are two atomic powers,” Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who became Pakistan’s foreign minister for the second time after being sworn in Monday, told his first press conference.
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan also called for a better relationship with India in his first televised address late on Aug. 19, as did the previous government of Nawaz Sharif. But Sharif’s overtures to India are widely believed to have incurred opposition from Pakistan’s military, and he was ousted by the Supreme Court last year for alleged corruption.
“We have long-lasting problems… we don’t have, in my opinion, any solution other than talks,” Qureshi said of the relationship with India, especially in a situation “where reaction time is very limited.”
“We need an uninterrupted, continued dialogue,” he said, referencing Kashmir in particular.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been tense ever since independence from Britain in 1947—particularly over Kashmir, the divided Himalayan territory over which they have fought two of their three wars.
Qureshi said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent a letter congratulating Khan, and “sent a message to start talks.” There was no official statement on the letter from the Indian foreign ministry, but the Press Trust of India also reported its existence and content.
The new foreign minister also said he wanted to travel to Afghanistan to deliver a “message of love, friendship and a new beginning.”
“Without peace and stability in Afghanistan, there won’t be rest, peace and stability in Pakistan,” he said.
Kabul has long accused Islamabad of harboring insurgent groups on its territory, including the Afghan Taliban. They are believed to have links to Pakistan’s military establishment, which aims to use them as a bulwark against India.
Pakistan has denied the claims but they are echoed in Washington, with whom Islamabad’s relations are also tense.
In January, the U.S. suspended security assistance to Pakistan over accusations it was aiding militants. “I have some idea of their priorities and concerns,” said Qureshi, adding that he will talk to them “straight.”
Qureshi previously held the position of foreign minister between 2008 and 2011.