India, Pakistan defuse Modi letter controversy

India, Pakistan defuse Modi letter controversy

India and Pakistan on Monday echoed each other to seek "constructive engagement" as well as to defuse a controversy over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Islamabad was quick to follow New Delhi in dismissing reports in a section of media about an offer made by Modi to Khan for restarting the stalled dialogue between India and Pakistan.

The media reports also prompted the Congress to step up an attack on the ruling BJP, claiming the prime minister's policy on managing India's relations with Pakistan was "changing like the seasons" and "confusing" the nation.

The controversy was triggered after Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the new foreign minister of Pakistan, held his first news conference after taking office.

Reports in a section of media quoted Qureshi saying that Modi had offered to re-launch of India-Pakistan dialogue in his letter to Khan.

Sources in New Delhi said Modi had only conveyed to Khan India's "commitment to build good neighbourly relations" with Pakistan and pursue "meaningful and constructive engagement for the benefit of the people of the region".

Sources also quoted Modi recalling his talks with Khan over the telephone on July 30 and underlining "their shared vision to bring peace, security and prosperity" in the subcontinent, in order to make it "free of terror and violence, and to focus on development".

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Pakistan government posted on its website a statement by its spokesperson, stressing that Qureshi had not stated that "the Indian Prime Minister had made an offer of a dialogue".

It clarified that Qureshi had just stated that Modi had also mentioned in his letter to Khan what he (Qureshi) himself had stated earlier — that the way forward was through "constructive engagement".

The formal dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad remained stalled since January 2013, when the government headed by Manmohan Singh had suspended talks in response to beheading of an Indian Army soldier and killing of another by Pakistan Army personnel along the Line of Control at Mendher Sector in Jammu and Kashmir.

An attempt to restart the talk in January 2016 had failed following the Pathankot attacks.

New Delhi so far maintained that it would not restart talks with Islamabad till it stops exporting terror from Pakistan to India and restrains its soldiers from breaking the ceasefire.