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Modi sets off Pak reaction

New Delhi, May 9: Talks between New Delhi and Islamabad remain critical for peace, Pakistan’s top diplomat in India said today, a day after the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate suggested dialogue under any government he leads may be conditioned on an end to cross-border infiltration and terror.

“We are eagerly awaiting the new government in India so that the dialogue process can start meaningfully and comprehensively once again on a fast pace,” Pakistan high commissioner to India Abdul Basit said at a trade show in Amritsar.

Modi, whose party has been widely tipped by opinion polls as likeliest to form the next government, was yesterday asked in an interview by television channel Times Now whether he believed talks with Pakistan were possible if ceasefire violations continued.

“Is it possible to have discussions amidst bomb blasts and gunshots?” Modi asked rhetorically in response, suggesting any government he leads would demand a cessation of cross-border violence before engaging in talks.

Basit’s statement is significant because Modi’s stance — a week before election results — points to a tougher position on Pakistan than that taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who repeatedly argued that not talking to a neighbour was not an option.

But the refusal to engage in a tit-for-tat with Modi, while articulating Pakistan’s position, also to a growing view within Pakistan diplomats any change in India’s government will not adversely impact ties.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s top foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz earlier this week said Islamabad was willing to “do business with any leader, including Modi.”

Islamabad had always expected Modi to launch high-decibel attacks on Pakistan during the election campaign. “That’s no surprise to us,” the diplomat said.