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Mon 20 Aug 2018 04:51 PM

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Pakistan keen for dialogue with rival India as new era begins

Pakistan wants an 'uninterrupted, continued dialogue' with arch-rival India, its new foreign minister has said as PM Imran Khan seeks better relations

Pakistan keen for dialogue with rival India as new era begins
Pakistani youths take a selfie with a poster of World Cup cricket hero turned PM Imran Khan in Islamabad. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan wants an "uninterrupted, continued dialogue" with arch-rival India, its new foreign minister said Monday, stressing the importance of talks between the nuclear-armed countries who have fought three wars.

"We are not only two neighbours but we are two atomic powers," Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who became Pakistan's foreign minister for the second time after being sworn in Monday, told his first press conference.

Pakistan's new Prime Minister Imran Khan also called for a better relationship with India in his first televised address late Sunday, as did the previous government of Nawaz Sharif.

But Sharif's overtures to India are widely believed to have incurred opposition from Pakistan's powerful military, and he was ousted by the Supreme Court last year for alleged corruption.

"We have long-lasting problems... we don't have, in my opinion, any solution other than talks," Qureshi said of the relationship with India, especially in a situation "where reaction time is very limited".

"We need an uninterrupted, continued dialogue," he said, referencing Kashmir in particular.

Relations between India and Pakistan have been tense ever since independence from Britain in 1947 -- particularly over Kashmir, the divided Himalayan territory over which they have fought two of their three wars.

Qureshi said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had sent a letter congratulating Khan, and "sent a message to start talks".

There was no official statement on the letter from the Indian foreign ministry, but the Press Trust of India also reported its existence and content.

The new foreign minister also said he wanted to travel to Afghanistan to deliver a "message of love, friendship and a new beginning".

"Without peace and stability in Afghanistan, there won't be rest, peace and stability in Pakistan," he said.

Kabul has long accused Islamabad of harbouring insurgent groups on its territory, including the Afghan Taliban. They are believed to have links to Pakistan's shadowy military establishment, which aims to use them as a bulwark against India.

Pakistan has denied the claims but they are echoed in Washington, with whom Islamabad's relations are also tense.

In January the US suspended security assistance to Pakistan over accusations it was aiding militants.

"I have some idea of their priorities and concerns," said Qureshi, adding that he will talk to them "straight".

Qureshi previously held the position of foreign minister between 2008 and 2011.

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