Modi extends 'best wishes' for Pakistani people, PM Khan says 'time to begin comprehensive dialogue'

Published March 22, 2019
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Prime Minister Imran Khan. — AFP/File
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Prime Minister Imran Khan. — AFP/File

In a significant development in the fraught Pakistan-India relationship, leaders of the two countries exchanged messages on the eve of Pakistan Day.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday evening said he had received a message from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which the latter extended "greetings & best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan".

"It is time that [the people] of the sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence," Modi said in the message, according to a tweet by Prime Minister Khan.

This is the first overture by India since the February 14 Pulwama attack, following which the nuclear-armed neighbours came to the brink of war.

In a subsequent tweet, Khan welcomed his Indian counterpart's message, saying it was now time to begin a "comprehensive dialogue" with India to resolve all bilateral issues.

"As we celebrate Pakistan Day I believe it is time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address & resolve all issues, [especially] the central issue of Kashmir, & forge a new relationship based on peace & prosperity for all our people," the premier wrote.

In what was the most serious military crisis in South Asia since 2008, Indian and Pakistani warplanes engaged in a dogfight on Feb 27, a day after a raid by Indian jet fighters on what New Delhi said was a militant camp in Pakistan. Islamabad denied any militant camp exists in the area and said the Indian bombs exploded on an empty hillside.

Read: How Pakistan, India pulled back from brink of war

Pakistan downed an Indian plane for violating its airspace and captured its pilot after he ejected in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

The tensions de-escalated after Prime Minister Khan decided to release the Indian pilot as a peace gesture, and following concerted diplomatic efforts by countries including the United States, China and the UAE.

The Indian government, which is seeking re-election in next month's national polls, had responded to Islamabad's peace gesture and offer for dialogue with effective silence.

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