ISLAMABAD Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday that his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, sent him "greetings and best wishes" on the eve of Pakistan's national day. The message came several weeks after the two nuclear-armed rival nations nearly went to another war over the Kashmir territorial dispute.
Khan tweeted that the Indian prime minister told him it was time for people of the "subcontinent [to] work together for a democratic, peaceful, progressive and prosperous region, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence."
The Pakistani leader said he welcomed Modi's message.
"I believe it is time to begin a comprehensive dialogue with India to address and resolve all issues, especially the central issue of Kashmir," Khan said. He added that the two countries "need to forge a new relationship based on peace and prosperity for all our people."
Military tensions have been running high in the region since Feb. 14 when a suicide car bomber in Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian security forces. A Pakistan-based outlawed militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), reportedly claimed responsibility for plotting the attack. Islamabad denied its involvement and offered full cooperation to India in investigating and bringing any Pakistani to justice if found guilty.
Instead, New Delhi on Feb. 26 carried out what it described as "non-military, pre-emptive" airstrikes on an alleged JeM-linked terror training camp in Pakistan's Balakot region. Pakistan denied any camps existed at the site and dismissed as baseless Indian claims of killing militants.
The following day, Pakistan launched a counterattack before the two countries engaged in aerial combat for the first time in 50 years.
Pakistani fighter planes shot down an Indian aircraft and captured its pilot, raising fears of a full-fledged war. Two days later, however, Pakistan freed the Indian pilot, easing fears of a wider conflict.
Both countries reportedly had mobilized missiles to target each other's cities, prompting the U.S., China, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to intervene and persuade India and Pakistan to step back from the brink of war.
Islamabad has since intensified its crackdown against JeM and other militant groups outlawed by the United Nations and the United States. Authorities have seized hundreds of facilities, including education institutions and health care units run by JeM and other Pakistan-based militant groups that India blames for plotting cross-border attacks.
More than three weeks after India carried out cross-border airstrikes, Pakistan's airspace remains blocked for flights to and from India. Pakistani officials cite the possibility of another "aggression" from the neighboring country for not opening the airspace.
Source: Voice of America