28 February 2019
Mumbai: If Pakistan frees the captured IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman and orders a ceasefire, then Prime Minister Narendra Modi should grab his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan's offer for talks, MNS President Raj Thackeray said on Thursday.
"If Pakistan is really sincere in their offer of constructive talks, then the first step in this direction must come from them. They have to release our pilot Abhinandan immediately and call for ceasefire," the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief said.
"If this can be achieved, then we can believe that Imran Khan's intentions are noble. If all this takes place, then Modi should not let this opportunity pass by," he said.
Thackeray's statement came against the backdrop of Khan's offer for talks to resolve the tensions between the two neighbours in the aftermath of the February 14 suicide bombing in Kashmir and the subsequent developments.
Thackeray said that Khan had not only made an offer right after the Pulwama attack but after the Indian Air Force's strikes (in Balakot), he had even gone ahead and offered to discuss all aspects pertaining to the Pulwama strike which killed 40 CRPF troopers.
A similar opportunity to resolved issues through talks had cropped up during the tenure of the late Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the then Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf, he pointed out.
"Atalji started the 'Sada-e-Sarhad', a bus service up to Lahore, and the 'Samjhauta Express' was initiated too. A historic (summit) talk took place in Agra. Unfortunately, it ended with no permanent outcome," Thackeray recalled.
Stating that the opportunity lost by both nations during the time of Vajpayee had appeared again, Thackeray asked: "If North Korea and South Korea, who were so hostile to each other, can come forward to defuse the conflict between them, then why can't we?"
Reiterating that a war cannot solve any issue, he said a conflict was damaging and pushes the country behind at all levels; even the Kashmiri population would be crushed and that cannot be allowed.
"Terrorists and terrorism must be ruthlessly eradicateda but for that, to wage a war or (create) a war-like situation for one's political interest is not right. Both nations should resovle the issues through constructive talks and foster a peaceful environment," Thackeray appealed to Modi.