Pakistan has signalled a willingness to open peace talks with India as Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears set to return to power after the national elections were fought in the shadow of renewed confrontation between the nuclear-armed enemies.
But in a possible warning, Pakistan also announced that it has conducted a training launch of a Shaheen II, surface-to-surface ballistic missile, which it said is capable of delivering conventional and nuclear weapons at a range of up to 1,500 miles.
“Shaheen II is a highly capable missile which fully meets Pakistan’s strategic needs towards maintenance of deterrence stability in the region,” Pakistan’s military said in a statement that made no direct mention of its neighbour.
On Wednesday, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmud Qureshi spoke briefly with his Indian counterpart at the sidelines of a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
“We never speak bitterly, we want to live like good neighbours and settle our outstanding issues through talks,” he said following the meeting.
The remark follows months of tension between the two neighbouring countries after terror attack in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama killed 40 CRPF men. The terror attack was claimed by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed.
India then carried out “non-military, pre-emptive” air strikes on a Jaish terror training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot on February 26.
The next day, after an aerial combat between the two countries, the Indian Force Pilot was captured. His MiG -21 Bison fighter plane was shot down when he was chasing Pak jets in Jammu and Kashmir and crossed over to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). He ejected safely and was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army.
He was released two days later by Pakistan amid global pressure.
There were no further strikes but tensions remained high, with regular exchanges of artillery fire from both sides.
Pakistan has also kept part of its airspace closed to international air traffic, disrupting flights to India and other parts of the region.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly offered to start talks with India to resolve the Kashmir issue, and officials have said that they hoped the process could start once the election is concluded.
Mr Khan himself said last month he believed there was more prospect of peace talks with Indian if Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the election.
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