The message may act as a further impetus towards de-escalation by the two countries.
New Delhi: On a day when India officially boycotted the Pakistan National Day reception at the Pakistan high commission (PHC) in New Delhi on Friday evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a surprise move, sent a message to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, 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. PM Modi sent the message as a greeting on the eve of Pakistan’s National Day on March 23. Government sources said it was customary to send a greeting on such occasions. PM Modi’s message was tweeted by Pakistan PM Imran Khan.
PM Modi’s message to Mr Khan comes just weeks after the air forces of the two countries were involved in a dogfight in the skies on February 27 following the IAF strike on a JeM terror camp at Balakot in Pakistan’s KPK province on February 26. The message may act as a further impetus towards de-escalation by the two countries.
India on Friday officially boycotted the Pakistan National Day reception, ahead of the Pakistan National Day on March 23, on the grounds that the PHC had invited (Kashmiri separatist) Hurriyat representatives to the function.
Interestingly, the Pulwa-ma terror attack and the Pakistani Air Force retaliation on February 27 to India’s air-strikes against JeM terror targets in Pakistan on February 26 were not cited as reasons for the boycott.
“India has decided not to send any representative to attend (the reception). This decision was taken after Pakistan decided to invite Hurriyat representatives. Any attempt by the Pakistan leadership to engage with Hurriyat representatives will not be taken lightly,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. He added that the Indian high commission in Islamabad will boycott similar events in Islamabad on Saturday.
However, eyebrows are being raised on why the invitation to the Hurriyat was being cited as the reason, considering that Pakistan has been inviting various Hurriyat leaders for the function over the years. Despite that India had been sending representatives at the level of minister of state (MoS) to the PHC National Day Reception in the past few years.
Sources said the current environment of Indo-Pak tensions did not make it feasible for any Indian official participation in the PHC Reception this time. Speculation is also rife that Pulwama or the recent Indo-Pak military tensions were not cited as the reason for the Indian official boycott since there is a possibility that Pakistan may continue to participate in Indian official functions.
The MEA also rejected the recent Pakistani criticism of the Samjhauta Express (Indian) court verdict, saying New Delhi “respected the verdict of the court”. On Pakistani criticism of the Samjhauta verdict, the MEA said it reflected “lack of understanding on the Pakistani side” about the functioning of the Indian judiciary, adding that “due process was followed” by the court in India. The MEA said there was no cooperation from Pakistan on serving of summons to witnesses in the case during the trial, adding that the Pakistani reaction was to deflect the attention from the failure of Pakistan to bring perpetrators to justice of terror crimes committed in India (but plotted and planned in Pakistan like the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008).