No dialogue offer from Modi to Khan: Pak; India ready for constructive engagement with Pak: Modi to Imran

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Islamabad/ NEW DELHI, Aug 20 (PTI): Pakistan on Monday clarified that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had not “made an offer of a dialogue” in a letter to his new Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

A Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson said this is a statement issued in response to a query regarding reports in a section of the Indian media.

The spokesperson stressed that new foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had not stated that “the Indian Prime Minister had made an offer of a dialogue”, but had said that Modi in his letter to Khan had also mentioned something similar to what the foreign minister elucidated earlier “that the way forward was only through constructive engagement”.

The FO said the foreign minister was also briefed about the positivity and constructive environment prevailing during the meeting of former Pakistani law minister Ali Zafar with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during his visit to India on August 18 to attend the funeral of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The FO said Pakistan looks forward to a mutually beneficial, uninterrupted dialogue with India to resolve all issues. “Any attempts to instigate controversy and vitiate the environment are counterproductive and against the spirit of responsible journalism,” said the spokesman.

Earlier, Qureshi in his first media interaction had also referred to the letter.

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written to his newly elected Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, conveying New Delhi’s commitment to pursue “meaningful” and “constructive” engagement with Islamabad and emphasising the need to work for a terror-free South Asia.

In a letter to Khan on August 18, the day he was sworn in as Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister, Modi also expressed India’s commitment to building good neighbourly relations between the two countries while congratulating him, official sources here said.

On July 30, Modi had telephoned Khan to congratulate him on his party’s victory in the general elections and expressed hope that both countries will work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties.

Days before Modi’s phone call, Khan said he wanted to improve ties with India and resolve all the issues through talks. “If India takes one step towards us, we will take two.”

In the letter, Modi recalled his telephonic conversation with Khan, in which they spoke of their shared vision to bring peace, security and prosperity in the Indian subcontinent to make it free of terror and violence, the sources said, quoting from the letter.

In his letter, the prime minister also expressed the belief that the smooth transition of government in Pakistan will strengthen and cement people’s belief in democracy.

“PM expressed India’s commitment to build good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan and pursue meaningful and constructive engagement for the benefit of the people of the region,” a source said.

Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived following a spate of terror attacks on Indian military bases by Pakistan based terror groups since January 2016. Following the strikes, India announced it will not engage in talks with Pakistan, saying terror and talks cannot go hand-in-hand.

Asked whether Modi’s letter revived hopes for resumption of talks between the two neighbours, former diplomat Vivek Katju said he has reiterated India’s position and it is for Pakistan to create an environment for engagement by coming down hard on terror groups.

 

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