ISLAMABAD: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday greeted Pakistan and its people on the National Day, in a surprise move just weeks after the two nuclear-armed neighbours were almost on the brink of a war.
“I extend my greetings and best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan,” Modi said in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Imran Khan, who confirmed it in a tweet.
“It is time that people of sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence,” Modi wrote.
PM Imran was quick to welcome Modi’s message and once again offered India to resume the long suspended dialogue process.
“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 and resolve all issues, especially the central issue of Kashmir, and forge a new relationship based on peace and prosperity for all our people,” Imran tweeted.
The national day is observed on March 23 every year to commemorate the passage of Lahore Resolution on this day in 1940 when the Muslims of the sub-continent set the agenda of a separate homeland for themselves.
It was, however, interesting to note that while Modi extended greetings to Pakistan, his government boycotted an event hosted by the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi to celebrate the Pakistan Day.
This was the first time Modi government stayed away from the Pakistan Day event in five years. In previous years, the Indian government did send ministers to such gatherings.
Videos purportedly showing Indian security officials deployed outside the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi were asking the Indian guests not to attend the event since the government boycotted it in the wake of Pulwama attack.
Some journalists, who attended the Pakistan Day function in New Delhi, blasted the Indian government’s move.
Modi was also facing backlash of his paradoxical policy towards Pakistan soon after Prime Minister Imran’s tweet about receiving greetings from his Indian counterpart.
Pakistan and India do greet each other on such occasions but Modi’s message in present tense environment holds more significance.
In fact, this was the first statement by Modi reflecting some positivity from his government since the Pulwama attack that brought the two countries close to a war.
India, which blamed Pakistan for the attack on its paramilitary forces in occupied Kashmir, launched so called air strikes allegedly targeting the terrorist camps in Balakot.
Pakistan, which strongly condemned the Indian fighter jets’ violation of its air space, rebutted the Indian claims of killing terrorists, a position was endorsed by the international media outlets and independent organisations.
A day later Pakistan also launched air strikes but dropped the missiles in open spaces just to convey India that it had both will and capacity to hit back.
The Pakistani counter attack led to a dogfight between the fighter jets of two countries. Two Indian warplanes were shot down by Pakistan Air force (PAF) and one of its pilots was captured.
Pakistan, however, released Wing Commander Abinandan within 72 hours in what Prime Minister Imran described as “gesture of peace.”
Pakistan has since taken steps to de-escalate tensions, including returning the captured pilot, return of Pakistan’s high commissioner to New Delhi and convening of the meeting in connection with opening of Kartarpur Corridor among others.
It is believed that several countries including the US, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and UAE played their part to defuse the crises.