New foreign minister wants 'uninterrupted' talks with India

Shah Mehmood Qureshi became Pakistan's Foreign Minister for the second time after being sworn in on Aug 20, 2018.
Shah Mehmood Qureshi became Pakistan's Foreign Minister for the second time after being sworn in on Aug 20, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ISLAMABAD • Pakistan wants an "uninterrupted, continued dialogue" with arch-rival India, its new foreign minister said yesterday, stressing the importance of talks between the nuclear-armed countries which have fought three wars.

"We are not only two neighbours but we are (also) two atomic powers," Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who became Pakistan's Foreign Minister for the second time after being sworn in yesterday, 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 Sunday, as did the previous government of Nawaz Sharif.

But Sharif's overtures to India are widely believed to have incurred opposition from Pakistan's powerful 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," Mr 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.

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 harbouring insurgent groups on its territory, including the Afghan Taleban.

The group is believed to have links to Pakistan's shadowy military establishment, which aims to use it as a bulwark against India.

Pakistan has denied the claims, but they are echoed in Washington, with which Islamabad's relations are also tense. In January, the United States suspended security assistance to Pakistan over accusations it was aiding militants.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'New foreign minister wants 'uninterrupted' talks with India'. Print Edition | Subscribe