Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has sought meaningful engagement and the resolution of outstanding issues such as Kashmir in a letter sent to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, people familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
Sharif’s letter, written in response to a missive from Modi congratulating him on his election as the Pakistani prime minister, was received by the Indian side through diplomatic channels on Saturday. The people cited above said the letters by both premiers were largely on the lines of the Twitter posts by them following Sharif’s election last week.
The head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), who became premier after Imran Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence, called for meaningful engagement between the two countries in his letter, the people said.
Sharif also sought the resolution of all outstanding issues with India, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, in his letter, the people added. This would bolster cooperative relations and regional peace and security, the letter reportedly said.
In a letter sent to Sharif last week, Modi had reiterated his congratulations on the former’s election as the Pakistani premier and called for constructive ties between the two sides.
In his maiden speech in Pakistan’s Parliament following his election on April 11, Sharif had offered an olive branch to India and said the resolution of the Kashmir issue would allow the two countries to focus on shared problems such as poverty and unemployment.
“We desire good relations with India but there cannot be lasting peace till the equitable resolution of the Kashmir issue,” Sharif had said. He added: “Neighbours are not a matter of choice, it is something you have to live with.”
Modi responded soon after on Twitter, congratulating Sharif and linking any engagement with Pakistan to an environment free of terrorism. “India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror, so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people,” Modi had tweeted.
On April 12, Sharif replied to Modi’s tweet by saying in a Twitter post that India and Pakistan should secure peace and focus on the socio-economic development of their people.
“Pakistan desires peaceful & cooperative ties with India. Peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes including Jammu & Kashmir is indispensable,” he tweeted, adding that “Pakistan’s sacrifices in fighting terrorism are well-known”.
Relations between India and Pakistan fell to a fresh low after the 2019 Pulwama terror attack that was blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by the Indian government in August the same year.
Pakistan downgraded diplomatic relations and snapped trade ties between the two sides in response to the developments in Kashmir. India has maintained that the changes in Kashmir were an internal matter while linking any engagement with Pakistan to credible and sustained action against terror groups operating from Pakistani soil.