- Imran Khan claimed Kashmir dispute can be resolved through talks
- Only "fools" would speak of war between nuclear-armed countries, he said
- "Everybody loses in a nuclear war," he stressed
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan today said that his government and army both want a "civilised relationship" with India, and claimed that the Kashmir dispute can be resolved only through talks and a healthy respect for humanity. "We have one issue - Kashmir. Why can't we resolve this one issue? It needs will," the cricketer-turned-politician said at the launch of the Kartarpur corridor between the two countries.
"Whenever I travelled to India, people would tell me that the Pakistan army is not interested in peace... I am telling you that I, the PM, our party, other political parties, our army -- we are all on the same page in wanting to establish a civilised relationship with India," Mr Khan said.
His reference to Kashmir has upset New Delhi. "It is deeply regrettable that the Prime Minister of Pakistan chose to politicise the pious occasion meant to realise the long pending demand of the Sikh community to develop a Kartarpur corridor by making unwarranted reference to Jammu and Kashmir which is an integral and inalienable part of India," the Foreign Ministry tweeted.
In a grand ceremony attended by two Indian ministers and his cricket compatriot Navjot Singh Sidhu, Imran Khan devoted much of his speech in making a case for peace and "moving beyond blame games and scoring brownie points".
Only "bewakoof (fools)" would speak of war between two nuclear powers like India and Pakistan, he said. "Everybody loses in a nuclear war. Hatred will take us nowhere," he said.
Referring to Kashmir, he cited the example of France and Germany, which were on opposite sides of the battleground during the Second World War, to make his case for peace.
The Pakistan Prime Minister also spoke in defence of Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, who had faced criticism in India for accepting the invite to the groundbreaking ceremony. "What is the crime of a man who wants to come here with the message of peace and love? You will see Sidhu's message of love triumph in the end, but I only hope we don't have to wait for him to be elected India's Prime Minister before the two countries become friends," he said.
Mr Sidhu, who was the Pakistan politician's contemporary in cricket two decades ago, had earlier said in his speech: "Mera yaar, dildaar, Imran Khan jive (may my friend Imran Khan thrive, live)."