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Pakistan invites incoming Indian prime minister to visit

Source: Reuters - Fri, 16 May 2014 16:10 GMT
Author: Reuters
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ISLAMABAD, May 16 (Reuters) - Pakistan on Friday invited India's incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit, just hours after India's opposition candidate secured a crushing victory in the world's largest election.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power last year promising to improve relations with nuclear arch-rival India, but a series of clashes on the disputed Kashmir border has cast doubt over the peace process.

"Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke to Narendra Modi on the phone this afternoon and congratulated him on this remarkable election victory and invited him to visit Pakistan," Sartaj Aziz, Sharif's adviser on national security and foreign affairs, told Reuters.

"Of course the process (for the visit) will take some time, initial contacts still have to be made. But the invitation is there."

The fact that outgoing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not visit Islamabad, despite being invited, has caused tension with Pakistan in recent years. A visit by an Indian leader would be seen as a major turning point in the relationship between the two countries.

Indian officials were not immediately available for comment.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they became independent countries in 1947, two of them over the mountainous region of Kashmir. Both control a part of the Muslim-majority region but claim it in full.

Modi's Hindu-centric politics have rung alarm bells in Islamabad, but late on Friday Pakistan's foreign ministry said it welcomed Modi's victory and looked forward to working with him.

A truce along the Kashmir border has held for nearly a decade, even though it has been broken every now and then by tit-for-tat artillery fire and an occasional cross-border ambush. (Reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik, Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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