Middle East

Imran vows to hold peace talks with India

Prime minister says will extend hand of peace once elections are over in the neighbouring country

RIYADH: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday vowed to hold peace talks with India following elections in the neighbouring country, after a similar offer from the former cricketer was “rebuffed”.

Khan made the announcement during a speech at a Saudi Arabian investment conference where the leader launched a charm offensive targeting potential investors as Pakistan seeks to secure funds amid a yawning balance of payment crisis.

“When I won the elections and came to power the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan told the crowd at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, saying the overture was later “rebuffed” by Delhi.

“Now what we are hoping is that we wait until the elections then again we will resume our peace talks with India,” he added, referring to upcoming nationwide polls scheduled to take place by mid-May.

In September India pulled the plug on a rare meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of a UN summit — a move that was termed “arrogant” by Khan and unleashed a barrage of insults from both sides.

India has long accused Pakistan of backing militants in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both since independence in 1947.

Khans call for peace talks comes as his administration is desperately seeking funds from “friendly” countries, including Saudi Arabia, to shore up Pakistans deteriorating finances.

During his address at the FII, Khan confirmed that Pakistan was also in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over a new bailout.

Since taking power in August Khan has also sought loans from allies such as China and Saudi Arabia, promised to recover funds stolen by corrupt officials, and embarked on a series of high-profile populist austerity measures.

But help has been in short supply and economists warnings have grown increasingly urgent.

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