Modi breaks silence, calls for ‘rebuilding trust’

Updated June 21, 2019

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Prime Minister Imran Khan. — AFP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and Prime Minister Imran Khan. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar of India have asked Pakistan to rebuild trust and develop enabling environment for progress in ties.

The Indian premier and foreign minister stated this in response to letters of felicitations from Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Mr Khan had in his congratulatory message to Mr Modi on his re-election underscored the need “to work together, on the basis of mutual respect and trust” and “to advance the goals of regional peace, progress and prosperity through collective endeavours”. He had previously phoned Mr Modi on May 26 as well.

The two leaders exchanged pleasantries during a brief encounter at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek on June 14.

FM Qureshi had, meanwhile, written to his counterpart Jaishankar expressing a similar desire for rebooting bilateral relations that remained strained during Mr Modi’s last tenure. The two countries stepped back from the brink of war in February this year.

Indian PM responds to Imran’s letter of felicitation

Mr Modi in his reply to Mr Khan’s letter said that for cooperative ties, it was “important to build an environment of trust, free of terror, violence and hostility”.

The Indian foreign minister stressed the need for an “atmosphere free from the shadow of terror and violence”.

The government sources that informed the electronic media here early in the morning about the replies received from India suggested that Mr Modi and his foreign minister had shown the desire for engagement between the two countries. Apparently, the assertion that “India seeks normal and cooperative relations with all neighbours, including Pakistan” was interpreted as a signal of the desire to re-engage.

This impression was immediately rejected by the Indian External Affairs Ministry and its spokesman Raveesh Kumar clarified that the response letters from Mr Modi and Mr Jaishankar contained no such references. He said the replies to the congratulatory messages were sent “as per the established diplomatic practice”.

The Indian position on engagement with Pakistan has remained unchanged.

A similar optimism greeted Indian position on ties with Pakistan was shown by Mr Khan’s government in its early days.

FM Qureshi in his first press conference after ass­uming the charge of the foreign ministry in Aug 2018 suggested that Mr Modi, in his congratulatory message to Mr Khan, extended an offer of dialogue.

Read: Modi phones Imran Khan, says 'ready to enter new era of ties with Pakistan': PTI

In the middle of the press conference, the then foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua conveyed some message to Mr Qureshi, who immediately told the media persons that the Indian prime minister had sent a letter congratulating Mr Khan and “Unhon ney Guft-o-shuneed ke raaste ka paigham diya hai”(They have sent a message for adopting the path of dialogue).

Instead of officially clarifying on the matter on that occasion, Indian journalists were privately conveyed by (Indian) government sources that Mr Modi had written about “India’s commitment to build good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan and pursue meaningful and constructive engagement for the benefit of the people of the region”.

The Foreign Office too later clarified Mr Qureshi’s comments and blamed the media for the controversy.

In his comments on the response of Indian prime minister and foreign minister to greetings from Pakistani leadership, Foreign Office spokesman Dr Muhammad Faisal said: “Pakistan’s position on the way forward in Pakistan-India relations was clear and well-known and did not require repetition.”

He further said that vision of peace, progress and prosperity for South Asia could be advanced by peacefully resolving all outstanding disputes, including on Jammu and Kashmir, and “moving away from the dynamic of confrontation to cooperation”.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2019