The Hindu – Pakistan PM, FM send congratulatory letters to Narendra Modi and Jaishankar

Letters follow a phone call from Imran Khan to Mr. Modi, as well as an exchange of tweets between the two leaders after the election results.

Suhasini Haidar

Islamabad Capital Territory – Pakistan, 07 June 2019. Days after the formation of the National Democratic Alliance government, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate him on his victory, while Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has written a letter to his Indian counterpart Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishankar, congratulating him on his appointment as well, sources in Delhi and Islamabad confirmed.

The letters follow a phone call from Mr Khan to Mr Modi, as well as an exchange of tweets between the two leaders after the election results.

The letters, which New Delhi hasn’t yet responded to, conveyed official greetings as well as a hope that India-Pakistan bilateral ties will improve in the future. They were both handed over to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad earlier this week.

According to Pakistani diplomatic sources, the letters sought “peace and stability in South Asia with the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute,” as well as “collective endeavours” for regional peace and prosperity, a possible reference to a SAARC summit, which Pakistan is keen to organise, but India has refused to attend.

The past few weeks have seen tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad rise over the tit for tat surveillance and harassment of their guests at ‘Iftar’ functions in each other’s capital.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a public protest against Pakistani police officials who intimidated guests at the Indian High Commission’s Iftar event at a hotel in Islamabad on June 1, and the Pakistan Foreign Ministry wrote two letters protesting similar actions by Indian security agencies against guests to the Pakistan National Day function on March 23 as well as the Iftar event at the Pakistan High Commission on May 28.

Despite the bitterness on the ground, however, the leaders of both the countries have kept up a steady set of exchanges over the period. Mr Modi wrote a letter to Mr Khan ahead of the Pakistan National Day, saying 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.”

Mr Khan welcomed the letter, calling for dialogue between the two countries. After the BJP’s win, Mr Khan telephoned Mr Modi to congratulate him.

The conversation, which reportedly lasted about 15 minutes according to one source, included the need to improve bilateral ties, India’s “neighbourhood first policy” and a desire to “fight poverty jointly.” Both leaders have also exchanged public messages over twitter.

In addition, former Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Foreign Minister met for a short “exchange of pleasantries” at the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Foreign Ministers’ meet in Bishkek in May, when Pakistan made an exception to the ban on flights to and from India to allow Ms Swaraj’s flight to travel through Pakistani airspace.

This week, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Sohail Mohammad, who was High Commissioner to India until last month, was accorded full security and all diplomatic courtesies when he travelled to Delhi on a “personal” visit to celebrate Eid with his family, and accompanied them back to Pakistan.

When asked if all the exchanges were building up to a possible bilateral meeting at the SCO summit in Bishkek on June 13-14 that Mr Khan and Mr Modi will attend, diplomatic officials in both capitals have declined to confirm the possibility of a one-on-one between the two leaders. On Thursday, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said there were no requests or plans for the leaders to meet to the best of his “knowledge”.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pakistan-pm-fm-send-congratulatory-letters-to-narendra-modi-and-jaishankar/article27659614.ece

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