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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday felicitated his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) victory in the elections and expressed his vision for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia.

According to Foreign Office (FO) spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal, PM Khan phoned Mr Modi to congratulate him on his re-election, as the Hindu nationalist party secured the highest-ever 303 seats in the 543-member house while the Indian National Congress won 52 seats.

In a tweet, the FO spokesman said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan talked to Prime Minister Modi today and congratulated him on his party’s electoral victory in Lok Sabha elections in India. PM [Imran] expressed his desire for both countries to work together for betterment of their people.”

Emphasises bilateral cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in region

According to the Indian media, the Indian prime minister thanked Mr Khan and called for creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism to foster cooperation for peace and prosperity in the region.

Soon after coming to power last year, PM Khan had taken an initiative to invite Indian leadership for a dialogue to settle all contentious issues including Kashmir and said: “If they [Indians] take one step towards us, we will take two”.

However, relations between the two countries became tense because of a war-like situation that erupted in February after India blamed Pakistan-based organisations for a suicide bombing in India-held Kashmir in which over 40 Indian troops were killed. Islam­abad strongly rejected the claim.

Last week informal interaction of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi with his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Kyrgyzstan was the first sign of improvement in the tense ties between the two countries.

“Today [I] met Sushma Ji. She had a complaint that we sometimes talk in a bitter manner. She brought sweets today so we could also speak sweetly,” Mr Qureshi was quoted as saying by the Foreign Office. “We made it clear to her that we want all the matters resolved through dialogue, and that Imran Khan had said in his very first speech as prime minister that if India takes one step forward, we would take two steps forward. Even today we are ready for a dialogue.”

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2019