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‘Kashmir is central issue’: Imran Khan’s reply to PM Modi message on terror


MARCH 22, 2019

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday he had received a message from his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the eve of Pakistan Day that spoke of the two sides working together for a peaceful region in an atmosphere “free of terror”.

In a late night tweet, Khan said the message from Modi had said: “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.”

People familiar with developments in New Delhi described Modi’s message as a customary message sent to heads of government or state on national days and noted that the focus was on a terror-free South Asia.

Khan responded to Modi’s message by tweeting that the time has come to “to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address & resolve all issues, esp the central issue of Kashmir, & forge a new relationship based on peace & prosperity for all our people”.

Addressing the Pakistan Day reception in New Delhi, Pakistani envoy Sohail Mahmood said diplomacy and dialogue are essential for mutual understanding and resolving issues such as Kashmir.

The developments came against the backdrop of the tensions created by the Pulwama terror attack claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and India’s retaliatory air strike on a JeM facility within Pakistan.

Mahmood noted the two sides had “passed through a very difficult time recently” but had also taken “steps in a positive direction”, such as Khan’s decision to release captured Indian pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the return of the two high commissioners to their respective missions and bilateral meetings to develop modalities for Kartarpur Corridor.

“There is, however, still the need to reassure concerned citizens in both countries, to consolidate the process of de-escalation, and to stabilize the ties against further shocks,” he said, adding recent developments had shown that “lack of engagement creates dangerous vacuum and serious risks for the relationship”.

“As we limp back from the brink, we must make sure that we act with wisdom to find a way forward – for our countries, and for our peoples,” Mahmood said. Coercive measures wouldn’t work and diplomacy and dialogue are “indispensible for enhancing mutual understanding, addressing mutual concerns and resolving long-standing disputes including Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

“We do hope the long winter in India-Pakistan relations would come to an early end,” Mahmood said.