Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said, India and Pakistan were “pretty close” to resolve the Kashmir issue during Atal Bihari Vajpayee and military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime. In response to a question during his appearance at the US Institute of Peace, a US-Congress funded think-tank, Khan said, “They came pretty close on resolving the Kashmir issue - phased movement referendum during the time of Vajpayee.”
Calling Kashmir the "bone of contention” between India and Pakistan, Khan said, Pakistan’s "top priority is to build good relationships with our neighbours" apart from putting an end to corruption and building strong institutions. “We must have stability in our region,” he said.
He said that after coming to power, he first tried to reach out to India.
"India is a country which we’ve had turbulent relationship with. Unfortunately, because of one issue of Kashmir, whenever, we have tried, whenever relationship has started to move in the right direction with India, some incident happens and that’s all related to Kashmir, and we go back to square one,” he said.
Prime Minister Khan said that soon after assuming office, he reached out to his Indian counterpart and assured him that he will take two steps, if India takes one step, because the biggest problem India and Pakistan face is poverty.
“The best way we can reduce poverty is that we start trading with each other,” Khan said.
Deflecting a question on Mumbai attack mastermind and Jamaat-ud Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed, who was recently arrested for the seventh time, Khan said it is in the interest of Pakistan that “we do not allow any armed militant groups to operate” in our country.
Earlier, Imran Khan had come down heavily on India, a day after his meeting with Donald Trump, expressing that he is surprised at New Delhi’s reaction to the US president’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue.
“Surprised by reaction of India to Pres Trump's offer of mediation to bring Pak & India to dialogue table for resolving Kashmir conflict which has held subcontinent hostage for 70 yrs. Generations of Kashmiris have suffered & are suffering daily and need conflict resolution,” Khan said on Twitter.