Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday evening tweeted: “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’.”
Mr. Khan’s tweet came on a day when the Government of India boycotted Pakistan’s National Day event in Delhi and the Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad also announced that he would not be attending the same event in Islamabad.
In his next tweet, Mr. Khan added: “I welcome PM Modi’s message to our people. As we celebrate Pakistan Day I believe it is time 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.”
Mr. Khan’s tweets created a stir on both sides of the border. At a time when both countries were almost on the brink of a full-fledged war just a few weeks ago, PM Modi’s message is quite important.
Political analysts and journalists in Pakistan said Mr. Modi’s message was a welcome gesture.
Political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi said Mr. Modi’s message was a refreshing change for a leader that, only a month ago, was beating the war drums. “If Pakistan’s consistent pro-normalisation approach since the spring of 2018 eventually yields better relations, it will be to the benefit of both countries.”
Journalist Beena Sarwar said that Prime Minister Modi’s message to Prime Minister Imran Khan was the kind of diplomatic overture that this region sorely needed. “Both countries need to translate this goodwill into action on an urgent basis. Stop putting conditions on the talks. Dialogue should be un-interrupted and un-interruptible. Focus on the low-hanging fruits.”
Ms. Sarwar added that both countries should ease visa restrictions, let people meet, trade and travel. “If they can do this, they will bring peace and prosperity to the region and go down in history as the men who made it happen,” she said.
Anchorperson Meher Bokhari felt that the message it was very uncharacteristic and added to the unpredictability of Mr. Modi as as a leader. “Reaching out during a time of strained hostile relations between the two countries, at the helm of elections, can be seen as an attempt to be portryed as a balanced leader, contrary to how the Indian opposition is painting him — a war mongering desperate man willing to do anything to bag the next election,” said Ms. Bokhari.
Former High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit, however, said that it was a routine message, “reiterating the mantra of terror and talks cannot go together”.
He also pointed out that it was “interesting is that it has been tweeted by Imran Khan and not Modi”.