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India indifferent to Pak peace overtures

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June 8, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan yet again offered an olive branch to India on Friday when Prime Minister Imran Khan dispatched a formal felicitation letter, the third time communication in two weeks with his Indian counterpart Modi, asking India to sit across the table to sort out disputes through peaceful means.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has also written a letter to his Indian counterpart to break the ice but India remains unmoved rejecting chances of a meeting between top leaders of the two countries in near future.

Prime Minister Imran had congratulated his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on assumption of office. He then sent across a tweet message to Modi on May 23 evening after immediately obtaining confirmation of his electoral victory and then he made a phone call to him. Modi responded with tweet message and while talking to Khan on phone, he spoke of peace and prosperity of the region along with curbing of terrorism that he earlier referred to in his tweet reply.

According to official sources, the Prime Minister sent his congratulatory message to Narendra Modi in a letter in line with established diplomatic norms and interstate practice. It is understood that the latest communication could pave the way for resumption of dialogue between Islamabad and New Delhi which were suspended by India in Modi’s first stint under the pretext of developments in Indian held Kashmir (IHK) where freedom loving people are fighting for their inalienable birth right of self-determination.

The letter underscored Pakistan's consistent policy of peaceful neighbourhood and the vision of working for durable peace and stability in South Asia with peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. The Prime Minister also emphasised the need to work together, on the basis of mutual respect and trust, to address the challenges faced by people of both the countries, including poverty and underdevelopment.

Imran Khan underscored the need to advance the goals of regional peace, progress and prosperity through collective endeavors. Interestingly, the two Prime Ministers will be under one roof next week in Kyrgyz capital Bishkek to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the presence of leadership of the significant regional leadership including Chinese President Xi and Russian President Putin. But both the countries have denied any scheduling of meeting of the two on the brinks of the summit.

Tension between Pakistan and India was visible as leaders of neighbouring India were present in Modi’s second swearing in ceremony except Pakistan. None from Pakistan was invited for the function. Prime Minister Imran left forSaudi Arabia to offer Umra and attend Makkah summit of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on the day Indian Prime Minister’s oath taking took place in New Delhi.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has also written a letter to Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and congratulated him on assuming charge as the new external affairs minister. According to diplomatic sources, Qureshi told Jaishankar in the letter that Islamabad wants talks with New Delhi on all important matters and remains committed to efforts for establishing peace in the region. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi named Jaishankar as India’s external affairs minister on May 31 as part of a major cabinet shakeup for his second term in office.

He was the top foreign ministry official until his retirement last year. Jaishankar was also an influential adviser to Modi on diplomacy during his first five years in power. He took over from Sushma Swaraj, the ruling party’s veteran leader and the previous most senior woman in the cabinet. Swaraj underwent a kidney transplant in 2016 and has been beset by poor health.

India's foreign ministry spokesman Rajeev Kumar has made it clear that no bilateral meeting planned between the prime ministers of Pakistan and India at the SCO next week. Both are scheduled to attend the regional summit that is to take place on June 13-14. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had an unscheduled and informal meeting last month with then Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of SCO meeting of foreign ministers in Bishkek. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two foreign ministers and the highest-level interaction since the post-Pulwama standoff, which had ended through intervention of foreign intermediaries. Indian media had conceded that Islamabad made a rare exception for Swaraj to fly directly through Pakistani airspace to attend the SCO meeting since Pakistan had closed its airspace for flights to and from India on Feb 26 after the Indian Air Force (IAF) aggression in Balakot. “The Indian government had requested us to allow Ms Swaraj to fly over Pakistan to avoid the longer route, and we gave them permission,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal had said.

Agencies add: Adding fuel to the fire, India on Thursday signed a deal with Israel under emergency provisions worth around Rs300 crore (five billion rupees) for buying over 100 SPICE bombs with high explosives warhead for the Indian Air Force. This is the first defence deal signed by the government after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took over for a second term.

This move comes as a surprise at a time when Pakistan has reduced its defence budget. The bombs to be procured are an advanced version of the Spice-2000 bomb, which can be used to reduce buildings and bunkers to rubbles in no time. Spice-2000 bombs were used by IAF’s Mirage-2000 fighter jets in the airstrikes at Balakot in Pakistan that resulted into felling of some trees.

“A contract for procuring over 100 SPICE bombs with Mark 84 warheads was signed with Israel under emergency provisions as per which the deliveries would be done in three months time,” top government sources told ANI.

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