ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said his government and the military want to mend ties with arch-foe India, in the latest bid to improve relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
“I, the prime minister, my political party, the rest of our political parties, our army, all our institutions are all on one page. We want to move forward,” Mr Khan said in a speech to open a new border crossing with India in Punjab province.
“If India takes one step forward then we will take two steps forward toward friendship,” he said.
The new crossing point, which will officially open next year, is about 120 km north of the Pakistani city of Lahore and will be used by Sikh pilgrims coming from India on a visa-free basis to visit holy sites in Pakistan.
The agreement is a rare instance of cooperation between the South Asian rivals which have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.
Appealing for a thaw in ties, Mr Khan called for improvements in trade and other cross-border interaction and urged ending poverty through cooperation.
Mr Khan said both countries stood to gain from better ties.
“We need leaders on both sides of the border who resolve to end the Kashmir problem and I assure you the problem will be solved,” Mr Khan said.
“Can you imagine how much this would benefit both countries?”
The tourism minister of India’s border state of Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu, who crossed the border for Wednesday’s inauguration said both the governments ought to realise that they had to move forward.
Next year is the 550th anniversary of the birth of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, in a small village near Lahore.
Thousands of Sikhs from India and beyond every year visit a shrine in the Pakistani village of Kartarpur, where Nanak died.