| GEO World|
| India ready to extend hand of friendship to Pak: Indian FM|
| Updated at: 2354 PST, Saturday, May 23, 2009|
NEW DELHI: India's new government said Saturday it was ready to extend "the hand of friendship" to Pakistan as long as Islamabad moves to dismantle militant groups.
S.M. Krishna, named foreign affairs minister earlier Saturday, said the government's policy was to boost ties with neighbours, including Pakistan.
"We would like to live in peace with our neighbour... that has been our desire and we are pursuing that," Krishna, 77, told his first news conference in the job.
"We stand ready to extend our hand of friendship and partnership to Pakistan if they take determined and credible action to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism operating from their territory," said Krishna,
"We cannot change our neighbours," the former US Fulbright scholar added as he sketched out the main foreign policy priorities of the Congress-led government, which scored a resounding victory in month-long general elections.
"That has been a stumbling block," Krishna said, referring to the Mumbai carnage.
Krishna said India will cement closer diplomatic ties across continents to help kickstart its economy, which is flagging as a result of the global financial downturn.
"To strengthen our policy and developmental options, we will consolidate further existing strategic partnerships with major powers like the United States, Russia, China, Japan and the European Union," he said.
"Our primary objective is to sustain high rates of economic growth in the range of nine to 10 percent during the coming decades," he said.