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Modi Conveys Wish of Better Ties to Khan on Pakistan Day

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo. Asif Hassan, Toshifumi Kitamura—AFP

Indian prime minister writes letter stressing that Delhi wants ‘cordial relations’ with the people of Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi marked Pakistan Day on Tuesday by conveying his desires for better relations between Delhi and Islamabad to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“On the occasion of the National Day of Pakistan, I extend greetings to the people of Pakistan,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Khan. “As a neighboring country, India desires cordial relations with the people of Pakistan. For this, an environment of trust, devoid of terror and hostility is imperative,” he added.

Acknowledging that humanity was going through a “difficult” time right now due to the coronavirus pandemic, Modi wrote: “I would like to convey my best wishes to you and the people of Pakistan for dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He concluded his letter by urging Khan to accept “the assurances of my highest consideration.”

In a subsequent statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Office confirmed that both Modi and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind had conveyed messages to their counterparts in Islamabad on March 23. “We received congratulatory messages from the Indian president and prime minister on Pakistan Day,” it said.

Ties between Pakistan and India have been frosty since Delhi accused Islamabad of staging a cross-border attack at Pulwama in India-held Kashmir, resulting in the deaths of 40 soldiers. In retaliation, Delhi staged an airstrike inside Pakistan’s airspace, resulting in one of its pilots being shot down. Wing Commander Abhinandan was freed and returned to India as a goodwill gesture.

The bilateral ties hit their lowest point in recent history after India, on Aug. 5, 2019, unilaterally abrogated the special constitutional status enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir, declaring the disputed region a union territory and imposing a communications blockade that has only recently started to be lifted. Pakistan has repeatedly accused India of creating the world’s largest “open air” prison in India-held Kashmir and urged the global community to pressure Delhi into ending its human rights abuses of Kashmiris.

Last week, Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa told a security dialogue in Islamabad that it was time to bury the past and move forward. “Our neighbor will have to create a conducive environment, particularly in occupied Kashmir,” he said, raising hopes of a thawing of ties.

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