Narendra Modi greets Imran Khan on Pakistan Day, but celebrations remains low key at Islamabad's high commission

New Delhi/Islamabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sent a letter to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, greeting people of the neighbouring country on the eve of its National Day and highlighting the importance of a terror-free South Asia, official sources said Friday.

The prime minister, in his message, said it was time for the people of the sub-continent to work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence, they said.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Khan, in a tweet, welcome Modi's message and said the time has come to begin a comprehensive dialogue between the two countries to address and resolve all issues, including Kashmir.

 Narendra Modi greets Imran Khan on Pakistan Day, but celebrations remains low key at Islamabads high commission

Representational image. Reuters

"I welcome PM Modi's message to our people. As we celebrate Pakistan Day I believe it is time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address & resolve all issues, esp the central issue of Kashmir, & forge a new relationship based on peace & prosperity for all our people," Khan tweeted.

Modi's message to Khan came in the midst of severe strain in ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours following the Pulwama attack and the subsequent air strikes by India on a JeM terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot.

Significantly, India Friday boycotted a reception at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi to mark Pakistan's National Day, objecting to invites extended to several separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir for the event.

The official sources said the prime minister sends a customary message on National Days to other heads of state and government and added that his message to Khan highlighted the importance of a terror-free South asia.

They further said it was an unsigned letter which goes to Pakistan on its National Day as a standard diplomatic practice. Such letters are sent to all countries with whom India has diplomatic relations. Earlier, Khan also tweeted PM Modi's message.

"Received msg from PM Modi: 'I extend my greetings & best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that ppl of Sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence'," Khan said.

Pakistani envoy Sohail Mahmood, in an address at the reception in Delhi, said Pakistan and India need to consolidate the process of de-escalation and stabilise the ties against further shocks, hoping that the "long winter" in bilateral relations would come to an early end.

He said both the countries should act with "wisdom" to normalise ties, asserting that "coercive measures" have not worked in the past and will not work in the future.

The envoy said a key takeaway from recent developments was that a lack of engagement creates "dangerous vacuum and serious risks" for relations between the two neighbours, adding Pakistan has "turned a corner" in its fight against the scourge of terrorism.

He said the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, return of the two High Commissioners to their respective missions, and bilateral meetings on the Kartarpur Corridor "are steps in a positive direction".

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian Air Force fighter jets bombed terror group JeM's training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan on February 26.

Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations the next day. However, the IAF thwarted their plans.

The Indian strike on the JeM camp came 12 days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama in which 40 soldiers were killed.

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Updated Date: Mar 23, 2019 08:52:36 IST

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