Sharif keen to boost ties with India: Pakistan

New Delhi, June 2 (IANS) Pakistan Prime Minister designate Nawaz Sharif genuinely wants to take the process of improvement in relations with India forward, the Pakistani high commission here said.

The incoming Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government has “clearly stated that improvement of relations with India is a foreign policy priority”, the statement said.

This has been “articulated with sincerity by Sharif in his interaction with noted Indian journalists and media”, it said.

“It is indeed heartening that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is widely respected in Pakistan, has responded positvely to the initiatives of Nawaz Sharif and sent a special envoy (S.K. Lambah) to meet the prime minister designate.

“Statements emanating from both sides have contributed to improving the atmospherics,” it added.

It said good neighbourly, friendly and cooperative relations between Pakistan and India based on mutual respect and mutual benefit were in the interest of the peoples of the two countries.

“While this must be the objective, both sides have to work the dialogue process to peacefully resolve all outstanding issues including Jammu and Kashmir and explore new avenues of cooperation,” it added.

“It is exceedingly important that both sides do their utmost to build a positive narrative about each other.

“Media has an important role to play. Generating positivity would help creating space to move forward with confidence. In winning hearts and minds this is the foremost challenge.

“It is also important that the phenomenal societal change in Pakistan is understood and appreciated in India. It is time to shed the old way of thinking and using of stereotypes. There is every reason for optimism,” the statement said.

The high commission said Sharif had extensively interacted with the Indian leadership.

It said the high point was the Lahore Summit with then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in February 1999.

“He genuinely wants to take the process forward. A historic opportunity now exists to bringing about a qualitative improvement in relations,” the statement said.

Manmohan Singh sent Lambah to meet Sharif in Lahore May 27. Lambah had served as India’s high commissioner to Pakistan during Sharif’s first term as prime minister.

Manmohan Singh and Sharif spoke on the phone after the May 11 Pakistan election.

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