Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday he would like to have a televised debate with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, to settle differences between the two neighbours.
The nuclear rivals have shared antagonistic relations since gaining independence 75 years ago, waging three wars, with ties strained recently over the Muslim-majority northern region of Kashmir, which both claim entirely.
“I would love to debate with Narendra Modi on TV,” Khan told Russia Today in an interview, adding that it would benefit the subcontinent’s one billion people if differences could be resolved through debate.
India’s External Affairs Ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
“India has become a hostile country, so trade with them has become minimal,” Khan said, stressing that his government’s policy was to have trade relations with all countries.
Khan’s remarks follow similar comments recently by Pakistan’s top trade official, Razzak Dawood, who according to media reports told reporters he supports trade relations with India, which would benefit both parts.
Khan said Pakistan’s regional trade options were already limited, with Iran, its southwestern neighbor, under US sanctions and Afghanistan, to the west, embroiled in decades of war.
Pakistan shares close economic ties with its northern neighbor China, which has committed billions of dollars for infrastructure and other projects under its Belt and Road Initiative.
Khan’s interview came on the eve of a visit to Moscow, where he will meet President Vladimir Putin – the first visit by a Pakistani leader to Russia in two decades.
The two-day visit for talks on economic cooperation was planned before the current crisis over Ukraine.
“It’s not about us, we have a bilateral relationship with Russia and we really want to strengthen it,” Khan said of the Ukraine crisis.