ISLAMABAD, MAR 31 – Pakistan‘s Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that peace and stability in South Asia is linked to the resolution of all outstanding issues, mainly the long-smoldering Kashmir dispute, which has been a bone of contention between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Responding to a congratulatory message from his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi on the occasion of Pakistan Day, which was celebrated on March 23, Khan said on Tuesday his people also desire “peaceful, cooperative relations with all neighbors, including India.”

In his message, Modi had said his country desires “cordial relations with the people of Pakistan.”

“We are convinced that durable peace and stability in South Asia is contingent upon resolving all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, in particular the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” Khan went on to say.

Creation of an “enabling environment“, he further said, is imperative for a constructive and result-oriented dialogue. He was referring to Modi’s call for an “environment of trust, and devoid of terror and hostility” between the two countries.

“I also take this opportunity to convey our best wishes for the people of India in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Khan added.

Relations between the two sides plummeted to a new low following India’s scrapping of the longstanding special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019.

The two neighbors, however, last month agreed to honor the 2003 cease-fire along the Line of Control — a de facto border that divides the picturesque Himalayan region between the two countries.

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.