LONDON - Adviser to prime minister on Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has said that Pakistan is ready to talk to new government elected by the Indian voters, including one headed by Narendra Modi, who heads the Bhartiya Janata Party.
"We are ready to do business with any leader, including Modi,'' Sartaj said in a telephone interview with the Hindustan Times newspaper. When asked about Pakistan Army chief's comments on Kashmir, Sartaj said that is standing position of Pakistan. "Kashmir is an issue that both Pakistan and India need to negotiate and remains on the dialogue table but if statements are made during the course of your elections about Kashmir being an integral part of India, there will be reactions and responses," he said.
Backing his statement that indicated Pakistan's willingness to work with Modi, the adviser emphasized that the last time there was any real progress between the two neighbours was under a BJP-led government with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister. In 1999, Vajpayee had undertaken a bus journey across the Wagha border to Lahore when Nawaz Sharif was the prime minister.
The two had signed the Lahore declaration in which both the countries committed themselves to intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu Kashmir. In the declaration, both the states also agreed to confidence-building measures in the nuclear and conventional military fields. Reiterating his government's desire for normalizing ties with India, Sartaj said, "Peace with India was Nawaz Sharif's poll plank and he launched his peace mission immediately after becoming prime minister."
"In fact, Nawaz Sharif told me that he was taking up peace as a poll issue so it will help him once he comes to power. We had a good start with Manmohan Singh and now look forward to restarting the dialogue once a new government is in place in Delhi."