Modi, Imran speak for first time since air strikes

AFP . New Delhi | Update:

Modi, ImranThe leaders of India and Pakistan spoke by phone on Sunday, their offices said, in their first conversation since before tit-for-tat air strikes in February, their worst bust-up in years.

Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan congratulated his counterpart Narendra Modi on his recent election victory, the two nuclear-armed arch foes said in separate statements.

Khan "expressed his desire for both countries to work together for the betterment of their peoples," Pakistan's foreign ministry said.

"Reiterating his vision for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia, the Prime Minister said he looked forward to working with prime minister Modi to advance these objectives," it added.

Modi meanwhile "stressed that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism were essential for fostering cooperation for peace, progress and prosperity in our region," India's foreign ministry said.

In February a suicide bombing in Indian-administered Kashmir -- divided between India and Pakistan since partition in 1947 -- claimed by a militant group based in Pakistan killed 40 Indian troops.

India and Pakistan then carried out tit-for-tat air strikes, but to the great relief of the international community the two countries retreated from the brink of further action.

Earlier this month, in a diplomatic victory for India, the UN added Masood Azhar, the leader of the group that claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, to its terrorist blacklist.

The group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), itself has been on the UN terror list since 2001.

The last time that Modi and Khan spoke is believed to have been when Modi congratulated his counterpart on his election victory in July 2018.

Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last week sealed a landslide election win, thanks in part to Modi talking tough about Pakistan.

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