Islamabad, Pakistan | AFP | 5/23/2019 – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan congratulated his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and his party on their election victory Thursday, saying he looked forward to working with the premier for “peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia”.
Modi claimed victory earlier Thursday in India’s general election, with his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headed for a landslide win.
“Congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Khan tweeted.
His message came just hours after Pakistan’s military said it tested a surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.
That launch followed an announcement by India a day earlier saying its military had test-fired a BrahMos missile, the world’s fastest.
Muslim Pakistan has watched Modi’s election campaign warily, frequently accusing him of fanning recent tensions in the disputed Kashmir region — which brought the two nuclear-armed nations to the brink of war in February — as a ploy to gain votes.
In April, however, Khan said a Modi win could help settle the Kashmir issue and Islamabad has repeatedly stated it open to dialogue with Delhi.
Pakistanis consider Modi a hardliner, analysts say, but welcomed his win even so — predicting it could lead to improved relations.
“The expectation in Pakistan is that there will be an incremental improvement in Pakistan-India relations as Modi’s attitude would be more relaxed,” retired Pakistani general Talat Masood told AFP.
“He is not going to get anything by continuing with the previous policy, because that will not help him at the international level and at the regional level.”
Tensions with Pakistan may have boosted his campaign, but with a fresh mandate “you have to deliver”, Masood continued.
“If you want to focus on the economy, if you want to focus on the regional co-operation and (for) a better image internationally, it is important to have good regional relations with neighbours,” he said.
Tensions remain high between the arch-rivals as Pakistani and Indian soldiers continue to fire over the Line of Control — the de-facto border dividing Kashmir — killing several civilians on both sides.
Pakistan has also restricted large swathes of airspace near its eastern border with India since the February clashes, effectively closing off major international flight routes in and out of Islamabad and Lahore while also disrupting Indian flights headed west over Pakistan.