ISLAMABAD (Diplomatic Correspondent) - Amidst continuing ceasefire violations and volleys of allegations on both sides of the Pakistan-India border, the Prime Ministers of the two nuclear-armed neighbours extended courteous felicitations to each other’s nations on their respective Independence days.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif received his Indian counterpart’s letter of felicitation on 14 August, which maintained a certain reserve while stating that the Indian premier looked forward to working with him.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh received a friendlier letter from Islamabad on 15 August, where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated his resolve to move forward through constructive and result-oriented engagement.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s letter to his Indian counterpart is the last in a series of seven letters exchanged so far between the two leaders, since PML-N emerged as the majority party in Pakistan’s May 11, 2013 general election.
In keeping with his resolve to remain engaged with India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was warm and positive in his August 15 letter of facilitation to the Indian premier, The Nation has learnt.
The Prime Minister in his letter to Singh specifically said that he looked forward to discussing issues of mutual interest at their meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, next month. He talked of working together to ensure peace and security in the region. However, the Indian premier did not mention anything about their mutually agreed meeting in New York next month. He preferred conveying a more general message of “pursuing peace, friendship and cooperation.”
Prior to the LoC flare-up both sides had agreed to a breakfast meeting on 29th September in New York. While hawks in the Indian media have been pressurising the government in India to call off the meeting, there has been no official word on it from Delhi yet.
The sense in diplomatic circles in Islamabad and Delhi is that the resumption of Pakistan-India composite dialogue is unlikely before October this year. It may be a possibility following the meeting of the two prime ministers in New York.
Earlier, the two sides had broadly agreed to start secretary-level talks this month, and Pakistan on its part had proposed two sets of dates for the meetings. However, there has been no response from India even a month after Islamabad formally communicated these dates.
All statements emanating from Delhi at the official and political level clearly indicate that India is currently in no mood to hold talks. Political and domestic compulsions seem to have made it difficult for the ruling Congress Party to give the green light for resumption of the composite dialogue with Pakistan at this stage. Although both sides agree dialogue is the only way forward, the anti-Pakistan sentiment being whipped up in the public there by a section of the Indian media has become a constraining factor.
Behind the scenes American and British diplomats are also trying to ease tensions between the two countries and ensure that the Nawaz-Manmohan meeting takes place on September 29 as planned. Pakistan had initially proposed September 26 and 27 for the meeting, but India suggested August 29 and Pakistan consented.
Pakistan High Commissioner to India, Salman Bashir, is also due in Islamabad on Sunday to brief the Prime Minister and his National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz, it is learnt. He will also share his assessment of the situation with top Foreign Office officials including Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Special Assistant to PM on Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi.
Amid growing tension on the LoC, the message from Islamabad for the New York meeting remains very positive, but from Delhi for now there is only silence.