Shehbaz, Modi kick off ‘letter diplomacy’

Indian PM expresses desire for ‘constructive engagements’ with Pakistan in ‘terror-free’ environment


Kamran Yousaf April 17, 2022

ISLAMABAD:

The Pakistani and Indian prime ministers have exchanged letters with both leaders expressing their desire for “constructive engagements” between the two nuclear-armed neighbours — a move that rekindles hope for a possible thaw in the strained ties.

The relationship between the two neighbouring countries have remained tense for years, particularly after New Delhi’s move to unilaterally change the status of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) in August 2019.

However with the change of government in Pakistan, there has been a renewed hope for a possible rapprochement after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif over his election as his Pakistani counterpart.

Following his congratulatory tweet, Modi wrote a letter to Shehbaz on April 12.

Official sources familiar with the development told The Express Tribune that the letter was in line with the congratulatory tweet where Modi expressed his desire to improve ties in a 'terror-free” environment.

Also read: Let's secure peace for socio-economic uplift, PM Shehbaz tells Modi

In the letter, Modi called for “constructive engagements” with Pakistan to deal with common challenges.

Prime Minister Shehbaz wrote back to Modi and voiced similar sentiments but reminded India that Pakistan's sacrifices in the war on terror were well known and acknowledged by the international community.

"Reciprocating your sentiments, I wish to convey that Pakistan remains committed to the maintenance of regional peace and security," Shehbaz wrote in the letter, a copy of which was available with The Express Tribune.

"Our sacrifices and contributions in fighting and eliminating terrorism are well known and globally acknowledged," he wrote while responding to Modi's reference to the issue of terrorism.

Shehbaz acknowledged that peaceful and cooperative ties between Pakistan and India were imperative for the progress and socio-economic uplift of the people of the two countries as well as for the region.

"This can be best achieved through meaningful engagement and peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir," he added.

"Let’s secure peace and work for the progress and prosperity of our people."

Also read: US, India call on Pakistan to take ‘irreversible action’ against terrorism

Modi had also exchanged similar greetings with Imran Khan when he was elected as prime minister in August 2018 but subsequent developments including the Pulwama attack and India’s move in IIOJK in August 2019 had dashed any hopes for a breakthrough in ties.

However, diplomatic sources believe that there is now a greater desire from both the countries to break the ice as years of tensions had not benefitted either side.

Other factors may also push both sides to lower the rhetoric. Pakistan is keen on focusing on its economic revival and better ties with India can help it tackle these challenges on the domestic front.

India, meanwhile, is interested in breaking the deadlock in ties with Pakistan given the challenges it is facing including a border standoff with China.

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