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Pak-India peace, trade to cut poverty: Imran

ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan need leaders who can resist pressure from military generals and political factions to reach a peace deal that would help eliminate poverty in South Asia, according to top Pakistani opposition leader Imran Khan, says a Bloomberg report.

The nuclear-armed neighbors agreed this week to restart the peace efforts that have stalled under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. India’s foreign minister has arrived in Islamabad to attend a regional conference, the highest ranking Modi official to visit Pakistan since he took power.

Khan, a former cricket star who heads Pakistan’s third-biggest party, criticised Modi and Sharif for failing to make the case for peace to powerful interest groups on both sides of the border. To reach a breakthrough, he said, the nations need leaders with political courage on par with Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.

“Only peace and trade is going to reduce poverty,” Khan said in an interview at his hilltop residence overlooking Islamabad on Saturday. “This is the only sensible way, so therefore I would sell that vision to my people and the establishment and to the prime minister in India and urge him that look, this is the way forward.”

Khan said that Modi was afraid of his “own right wingers” and Sharif was worried about Pakistan’s army, which holds sway over matters of internal security and foreign affairs. He called for the end of “this stupidity of harking back and riling up anger and hatred toward each other.”

“Look at the amount of Europeans killed in the last century and yet look at them: open borders, trade, standard of living going up,” Khan said. “That’s what we should be doing here.”

Khan said that if he were the prime minister he would show the leadership necessary to convince the military of the benefits of peace with India. He cited Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an example of a civilian leader who managed to reduce the influence of the military in policy decisions.

“That’s what a leader’s job is,” Khan said. “Turkey’s military was even stronger than Pakistan’s military in some ways. Look at Erdogan, with economic prosperity he eventually mobilised public opinion. It can happen.”

Nalin Satyakam Kohli, a spokesman for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, dismissed Khan’s comments that Modi was beholden to hardliners.“The government takes decisions keeping the national interest in mind,” he said.

Musadaq Malik, a spokesman for Sharif, said the government wants to see greater regional integration to spur economic growth and poverty alleviation.“To the extent possible, we’d like to see peace, we’d like to see regional development, regional trade, but not at the expense of the principled stance that Pakistan has taken,” Malik said in an interview. Any talks must be comprehensive and include Kashmir, he said.


NEO Monitoring Report

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