ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday played down the hype over the letters written by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar to their Pakistani counterparts.
It termed it a diplomatic practice for the leadership to congratulate new office-holders and for them to respond.
Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi both had written letters to their respective Indian counterparts following the parliamentary elections in India last month.
In those letters, Imran and Qureshi, while congratulating Modi and Jaishankar, renewed calls for resumption of dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.
The Indian prime minister and the foreign minister responded to the letters, with some reports claiming that New Delhi had shown its willingness to enter into a dialogue with Islamabad.
The India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson; however, was quick to issue a rebuttal and insisted that New Delhi’s position remained the same.
“As per the established diplomatic practice, PM and EAM have responded to the congratulatory messages received from their counterparts in Pakistan.
“In their messages, they have highlighted that India seeks normal and cooperative relations with all neighbours, including Pakistan,” said Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
Kumar; however, added that PM Modi's message stressed the importance of building an "environment of trust, free of terror, violence, and hostility", while the EAM emphasised the need for an "atmosphere free from the shadow of terror and violence".
Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal also issued a clarification later, cautioning against media speculations.
Responding to questions regarding media reports concerning Indian response to the congratulatory letters by the prime minister and the foreign minister to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on the assumption of their respective offices, the spokesperson cautioned against media speculation and underlined that it was an “established diplomatic practice for the leadership to congratulate new office holders and for them to respond”.
The official handout issued by the Foreign Office said Pakistan’s position on the way forward in relations between the two countries was clear and well-known and did not require repetition.
The spokesperson added that the vision of peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia could be advanced by peacefully resolving all outstanding disputes, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, and moving away from the dynamic of confrontation to cooperation.
Relations between Pakistan and India remained tense throughout Modi government’s last five-year term. The two countries were almost on the brink of a war in February when the two neighbours launched tit for tat air strikes following the Pulwma incident.
However, there were hopes of reengagement between the two sides following the landslide victory by Modi in the recently held elections.
Modi and Imran recently attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek. There was no formal meeting between the two leaders but they did shake hands and exchange pleasantries, according to Foreign Minister Qureshi, who also attended the regional moot.
Imran also congratulated Modi over his election victory and expressed his desire to work with him for the larger good of the region. Modi also responded back and said he always wished for peace.
But the latest letter controversy suggests that the chances of any meaningful engagement between the two countries in the near future are bleak.