Modi greets Imran Khan on eve of Pakistan National Day, calls for terror-free South Asia

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday sent a “customary” message to his Pakistani counterpart PM Imran Khan and the others heads of state on the eve of its National Day, highlighting the importance of a terror-free South Asia, government officials said.

Greeting the people of the neighbouring country, the Prime Minister, in his message, said 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.

PM Modi’s message to Khan comes weeks after the worst escalation between New Delhi and Islamabad since the 1999 Kargil War.

There has been a severe strain in ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours following the Pulwama attack and the subsequent air strikes by India on a JeM terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot.

Meanwhile, India had on Friday boycotted a reception at the Pakistan High Commission in Delhi to mark Pakistan National Day, objecting to invites extended to several separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir for the event.

Imran Khan also tweeted PM Modi’s message.

“Received msg from PM Modi: ‘I extend my greetings & best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that ppl of Sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive & prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence’,” Khan said.

Welcoming PM Modi’s greeting, Khan said, “As we celebrate Pakistan Day I believe it’s time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address & resolve all issues, esp central issue of Kashmir & forge a new relationship based on peace&prosperity for all our people”.

Earlier, Pakistani envoy Sohail Mahmood, in an address at the reception here, said Pakistan and India need to consolidate the process of de-escalation and stabilise the ties against further shocks, hoping that the “long winter” in bilateral relations would come to an early end.

He said both the countries should act with “wisdom” to normalise ties, asserting that “coercive measures” have not worked in the past and will not work in the future.

The envoy said a key takeaway from recent developments was that a lack of engagement creates “dangerous vacuum and serious risks” for relations between the two neighbours, adding Pakistan has “turned a corner” in its fight against the scourge of terrorism.

He said the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, return of the two High Commissioners to their respective missions, and bilateral meetings on the Kartarpur Corridor “are steps in a positive direction”.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after India carried out “non-military pre-emptive” airstrikes targeting the JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, early on February 26, followed by an aerial combat of fighter jets of the two sides the next day. 

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