Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has vowed to hold peace talks with arch-rival India following next year’s nationwide elections in the neighboring country.
Khan made the announcement during a speech at a Saudi investment conference in the capital Riyadh on Tuesday.
“When I won the elections and came to power the first thing I tried to do was extend a hand of peace to India,” Khan said at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in the Saudi capital, adding that the overture was later “rebuffed” by Delhi.
“Now what we are hoping is that we wait until the elections then again we will resume our peace talks with India,” the premier said, referring to upcoming elections scheduled to take place by mid-May.
Last month, New Delhi pulled the plug on a planned meeting between its foreign minister and her Pakistani counterpart set on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Khan said at the time that he is “disappointed” with the Indian government for its decision to call off a planned meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries, denouncing New Delhi’s move as “arrogant and negative.”
The foreign ministry in New Delhi said its decision was to protest the killing of Indian security personnel in Indian-controlled Kashmir and a Pakistani postage stamp it said was “glorifying” an anti-India fighter who Indian forces killed in the disputed Himalayan region last year.
Islamabad immediately rejected New Delhi’s charges as excuses to enable it to avoid holding talks before national elections next year.
Tensions are high in Indian-controlled Kashmir, where the Muslim-majority population stages regular protests against the Indian rule, demanding autonomy from New Delhi or a merger with Pakistan.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting pro-independence fighters, an allegation rejected by the Pakistani government. Islamabad, in turn, is critical of India’s heavy military deployment to Kashmir, some 500,000 soldiers, and its crackdown against the disputed region’s Muslim population.
Thousands of people have been killed in the unrest in Kashmir over the past few decades.
Khan justifies presence at controversial Saudi summit
Khan is in Saudi Arabia for the summit overshadowed by the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Turkish coastal city of Istanbul that has prompted a wave of cancellations.
Islamabad continues to seek funding to plug its deteriorating finances. Khan earlier said in an interview he was concerned by Khashoggi’s death but could not skip the conference because “we’re desperate” for possible Saudi loans to shore up Pakistan’s economy.
It is Khan’s second visit to Saudi Arabia in just over a month.
Since taking power in August Khan has sought loans from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia.
The Pakistani premier has also recently said that the country might need to return to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to address its mounting balance of payments crisis and economic woes.
Any IMF bailout would likely include conditions to curb government spending. The IMF’s demands could threaten Khan’s campaign promise to build an Islamic welfare state.
Khan has blamed the previous government for the economic situation and repeated a promise to recover billions of dollars he says former corrupt rulers have stashed abroad.