NEW DELHI - Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan on Saturday said even though Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will try to improve ties with India, he would not be able to go ‘fast’ on the issue due to pressure from fanatical elements, reported PTI.

In an interactive session, he said the future of India and Pakistan should be like that of the European Union, with people being allowed to move freely. He expressed the hope that when his party comes to power, people would be allowed to drive down from Delhi to Lahore without any barriers.

“You will find that even though our current prime minister will try but he would not be able to go fast towards building relations with India because of the pressure from this small fanatical group,” he said.

Imran Khan observed that the level of fanaticism in Pakistan is at its peak at the moment but “in the next six months, my optimism is that after the exit of the US from Afghanistan, this frenzy of fanaticism in Pakistan will start subsiding”.

“Once that happens, then we can move towards concentrating on normalising our relations.

The interactive session was organised by the All India Management Association.

The head of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf party said in order to bring stability to Afghanistan after the US exit from there in 2014, India and Pakistan will have to cooperate and not interfere in the functioning of the government in Kabul.

“If India and Pakistan cooperate after 2014 and decide not to interfere with the government there, it will go a long way in ensuring stability there. If we start proxy war there, I hate to think what will happen there,” he said.

Imran said that despite Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent statement on a possible fourth war with India over Kashmir, both the countries cannot afford to do so as they are nuclear powers.

He also noted that cooperation between the two countries on issues like energy and food security was important and both could possibly have a joint civil-nuclear cooperation if his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, comes to power.

He maintained Kashmir still remains the “core issue” of dispute between the two countries and once that problem is solved all other problems would be solved. Khan claimed both the countries had almost finalised the details of a deal on Kashmir that could have possibly put an end to the problem in 2008 but the attacks in Mumbai derailed the talks.

Imran strongly refuted the impression that relations between Pakistan and India will wane if BJP comes into power as result of upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Khan further stressed that a strong leadership should emerge after 2014 elections.

“Who comes to power is not the business of Pakistan, it is for the people of India to decide. All I want is a strong leadership, the ability of taking strong decisions,” Khan said.

In an interview with an Indian TV channel in New Delhi, Imran Khan said Pakistani youth want cordial ties with India; so favourable atmosphere for bilateral trust should be restored between the two countries.

He said use of force is a cause of increase in the terrorism and currently Pakistan is passing through the worst period of violence.

“Those involved in Mumbai attacks should be brought to justice,” said the PTI leader while replying a question. “The Kashmir dispute must be resolved through talks; Pakistan and India will have to get closer for settlement of the dispute,” added Imran.

Meanwhile, former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said terrorism is a threat to Pakistan and turning a ‘blind eye’ to the problem is no solution.

“After the Mumbai attacks in 2008, I came to India, my statement was public. I said it (the attack) was unacceptable and Pakistan must bear some of the responsibility,” Rice said, addressing the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday.

She admitted this does not work quickly. “This is a long-term problem, it can’t be turned around quickly but over decades.” But their system can be mobilised to take action against terrorists with the right pressure and persuasion.

“Many Pakistanis are tired of terrorists. Their leader Benazir Bhutto was killed by the extremists in 2007,” she added.

The former US secretary general, however, stressed the need for cooperation, saying, “We have to work with Pakistan.”

Rice said the 9/11 attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon had changed the concept of security in modern days.

Terming Taliban-ruled Afghanistan ‘failed state’ before the US military operations started in the country, she added that “ungoverned territories” and not big nations are the breeding ground for terrorists.

Stressing US-India ties, she said the two countries had been sharing intelligence inputs to fight terrorism.

“India and the US have worked together to deal with stateless terrorists who kill the innocent.” According to Rice, the “challenge is to stop before a terror attack happens” so that lives can be saved.

The leadership of countries that practice ‘embedded terrorism’ – state sponsored terrorism – have to be told they must ‘clean up’, said Rice. The US policy towards state sponsors of terrorism, she said, has been to say “you don’t have an option” about dealing with this.

Rice said one has to be nuanced in responding to state-sponsored terror. Rice, one of the authors of the US-India nuclear deal, said the US-India relationship “was without limits” because the two countries shared both common interests and values. She listed some of the interests she saw shared by India and the US: a world safe from terrorism, stability in South and Central Asia, energy security, preserving an international system based on rule of law.