Pakistan’s premier hails ‘impressive victory’ of BJP in India’s general elections.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called India’s Narendra Modi on Friday to congratulate him on his landslide election win, suggesting Islamabad is keen to promote better ties with its neighbor.
Sharif spoke to Modi, leader of the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to hail the “impressive victory,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.
There have been fears that a victory for Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP could signal bumpy times ahead for the two nuclear powers. Preliminary results following India’s six-week election showed the BJP on course for the first parliamentary majority by a single party in 30 years.
Since his own election victory in May last year, Sharif has sought to improve ties with India, Pakistan’s traditional archrival. The countries have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which both control in part but claim in full. The Himalayan region continues to be a source of tension.
In an interview last week, Modi said ties with Pakistan could not improve unless the country worked hard to stop militants from carrying out attacks on Indian soil. “The first step in building any meaningful relationship with Pakistan has to be Pakistan taking effective and demonstrable action against the terror networks that operate from its soil,” he told the Times of India. “Once that happens, there will an increased trust between the two neighbors which will enable us to pursue a policy of dialogue to solve all the issues.”
Relations plummeted in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, blamed on Pakistani militants, which left 166 people dead. A series of clashes along the de facto border in Kashmir last year also raised tensions between the two sides and led to the suspension of low-level peace talks, which had resumed after a long pause triggered by Mumbai.
In Pakistan, Modi has long been held in deep suspicion for his association with bloody anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002. India’s outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in January that Modi would be “disastrous for the country” after “presiding over the massacre of innocents.”
He was boycotted by the U.S. and European powers over the riots, which left around 1,000 people dead. Modi denies turning a blind eye to the bloodshed, and investigators have never found evidence of wrongdoing.