By Arun Joshi
In what appears to be fast changing scenario between India and Pakistan from highs-end hostilities to firm signs of search for middle ground to talk and sort out the issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote a letter to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Kahn greeting him and the people of the neighbouring country on their national day with an extra stress on cordial relations between the two nations .
The letter which is first of its kind to Pakistan Prime Minister by Modi has outlined the contours t0 move ahead as the neighbouring countries has a tone that seems to be suggesting the measures that can foster cordial relations and the pathway that they can walk together .
Kashmiri leaders sense a hope in it, and the first to react to the letter was PDP president and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti threw hints of the opportunity to revive the Vajpayee era bonhomie between India and Pakistan . She recalled Vajpayee’s doctrine that “ friends can be changed and not the neighbours.”
Modi while greeting the people of Pakistan on their national day ( March 23) , listed India’s hopes and expectations from Pakistan in the letter that will be a document bound to be recalled time and again during the future discourse on India-Pakistan relations .
“ As a neighbouring country India desires cordial relations with the people of Pakistan”, Modi wrote in the letter and qualified what all is needed in fostering this level of relationship . “ For this “, he underscored , “ an environment of trust , devoid of terror and hostility is imperative.”
The Prime Minister is making it mandatory on the part of Pakistan to shun its anti-India rhetoric and actions generated by its establishment as also what Islamabad calls non-state actors.
Much of the significance of the letter written three days after Modi had sent his best wishes to Imran Khan for his speedy recovery from the Covid-19 for which he was tested positive last weekend is that a script of peace is being followed , though the first hints for dialogue between Delhi and Islamabad had come first from Pakistan after Imran Khan and army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa underlined the need to work together for peace in the region . The duo, however, had sought resolution of Kashmir “ dispute.”
Gen. Bajwa had used the mild words , he had stated at Islamabad Security Dialogue hosted by think tanks and steered by Pakistan’s national security advisor Moeed Yousuf , that India needs to create conducive conditions in its part of Kashmir . He did not spell out the measures for the conducive atmosphere, but given the past record of Pakistan that meant minimizing the anti-terror activities in Kashmir.
Modi’s letter, when it spoke of the “ environment of trust , devoid of terror and hostility”, put onus on Islamabad and Rawalpindi – to stop all the terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir and cease all hostile intentions and actions against India.
But the real intent of the letter , which came after the February 25 reiteration of the November 26, 2003 ceasefire on the Line of Control and all other sectors and the resumption of the Indus Water Treaty talks in New Delhi between India and Pakistan on Tuesday , is to tell the world that India is several steps ahead in forging good ties with its neighbours, particularly Pakistan . The world has most of the time viewed these two nations in the frame of adversary to each other.
Modi has attempted to make a direct connect with the people of Pakistan through this letter , in which , he wrote : “ Excellency , at this difficult time for humanity, I would like to convey my best wishes to you and the people of Pakistan for dealing with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It concluded with a remarkably conciliatory tone,” Please accept , Excellency , the assurances of my highest consideration.”
This is a good tiding for the people of Kashmir who had been longing for end of hostility between India and Pakistan , because their relationship determines the peace or otherwise for them.
It may be worthwhile to recall here that hours before this significant development that can re-open the chapter of dialogue and peace of the early 2000 between the two countries , All Parties Hurriyat Conference that represents separatist sentiment in Kashmir , in a statement while welcoming the February 25 ceasefire , wanted the two countries to take more steps in resolving the Kashmir issue.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.
He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
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