Islamabad: Even as the Centre boycotted the Pakistan National Day event at its high commission in New Delhi, the neighbouring country welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s greetings to Imran Khan. (Also read: US Asks Pakistan to Act Against Terrorism)
Taking to Twitter, Khan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief, said he received a message from PM Modi. “I extend my greetings and best wishes to the people of Pakistan on the National Day of Pakistan. It is time that the people of the sub-continent work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence,” the message reportedly said.
Khan added, “I welcome PM Modi’s message to our people. 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.”
PM Modi’s message to Khan comes amid heightened tension between the two countries since the February 14 Pulwama terror attack on a CRPF convoy. Forty jawans were killed in the attack for which Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility. India followed it up with Balakot airstrikes to which Pakistan retaliated the next day by unsuccessfully attempting to target military installations here.
Meanwhile, sources said much shouldn’t be read into PM Modi’s message. They said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi sends a customary message on National Days to other Heads of State or Government. His message to Pakistan PM Imran Khan highlighted the importance of a terror-free South Asia.”
During the day, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had confirmed India was boycotting the celebrations over invites being extended to separatists. “In February, we were very clear that any attempt by Pakistan High Commission or Pakistani leadership to engage with Hurriyat leaders will not be taken lightly,” he added.
The External Affairs Ministry said no Indian representative will attend similar events in Islamabad as well. However, Pakistani officials said no prominent Hurriyat Conference leader attended the reception in New Delhi where the celebrations were held a day prior to the actual event in Islamabad on March 23.
Reports said that Delhi Police had detained Kashmiri activist Mohammed Ahsan Untoo when he was about to enter Pakistan High Commission. Untoo, who runs International Forum of Justice and Human Rights, was among the invitees from Jammu and Kashmir.
Separatists have been staying away from the function for the last three years. ANI quoted another invitee, Jaan-e-Aalam, as saying, “We are with our country’s decision to boycott it (National Pakistan Day). We will not go to Pakistan Embassy if our government says that we don’t have to go.”
On Friday, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood said that diplomacy and dialogue are indispensable to resolving the long-standing disputes, including Jammu and Kashmir, between the two countries.
Speaking at Pakistan High Commission here, Mahmood said, “Coercive measures have not worked in the past and they will not work in the future. Diplomacy and dialogue remain indispensable for enhancing mutual understanding, addressing mutual concerns and resolving long-standing disputes including Jammu and Kashmir.”
Hoping for better relations between the two South-Asian nations, he said, “A relationship based on sovereign equality, mutual respect and mutual interest is the best guarantee for a peaceful and prosperous future. We do hope the long winter in India-Pakistan relations would come to an early end.”
Hailing both the nations for their work towards bettering the relations, Mahmood said, “Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to release Wing Commander Abhinandan; the return of the two High Commissioners to their respective Missions and bilateral meetings to develop modalities for the operationalisation of the Kartarpur Corridor are steps in a positive direction.”