Imran Khan, soon after his victory at the Pakistani elections offered an olive branch to India in order to solve disputes between the two neighbours through dialogue.
This move was promptly reciprocated by Prime Minister Modi and people on both side of the border had high expectations that this will herald a new chapter for building a peaceful relationship between India and Pakistan benefiting the masses in both countries hopefully with the opening of borders, engagement in trade and cooperation in other fields.
In his congratulatory telephone call to Imran Khan on winning the elections, Modi said that he hoped both countries will “work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties”.
Picking up on PM Modi’s stress on constructive engagement, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan sought resumption of a comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan.
In a letter to Modi dated Friday 14 September, Imran Khan endorsed constructive engagement between the two countries. In his letter, had suggested a meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting.
He wrote, “Pakistan and India have an undeniably challenging relationship. We, however, owe it to our people, especially the future generations, to peacefully resolve all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, to bridge differences and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.”
The Pakistan PM further added, “Pakistan remains ready to discuss terrorism.”
It was proposed by Pakistan and confirmed by India that while Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will be in New York to attend the SAARC foreign ministers lunch on Thursday 27 September where her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi will also present, the two could meet on sidelines.
“I can confirm that on the request of the Pakistani side, a meeting between external affairs minister & Pakistani foreign minister will take place on the sidelines of UNGA at a mutually convenient date and time,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
However within a matter of days, on Friday 21 September, India made an about turn, cancelling the meeting and the same Raveesh Kumar had this to say,“ in view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in New York.”
Raveesh Kumar abruptly launched a rude frontal attack on Pakistan and its newly elected peacemaker Prime Minister saying “the evil agenda” of the neighbour has been exposed and the “true face of the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has been revealed to the world in his first few months in office”.
Pakistani leaders were very much restrained and responded with their disappointment at this opportunity for peaceful dialogue.
“It is unfortunate that India has not given a positive response. India has once again wasted an opportunity for peace,” said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was disappointed at India’s response to his peace overtures, termed it “arrogant” and “negative”, and said, “all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture”.
Still showing a conciliatory attitude, Pakistan’s information minister Fawad Chaudhry said on Saturday 22 September that despite the “unfortunate cancellation” of the planned meeting of foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Pakistan is ready to open the border for Indian pilgrims to access Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Kartarpur.
Political analysts on both sides of the border have attributed the strange response of the BJB government in India towards peace with Pakistan to communal politics in the country in preparation for the national elections by the middle of 2019.
It looks like the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is developing a strategy to win elections next year by playing the communal card and create a Hindu-Muslim divide in the country in order to attract Hindu votes, that goes hand in hand with depicting Muslim Pakistan as the enemy as well as causing the fear of Muslim Bangladeshi’s infiltrating into India via the state of Assam.