New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written a congratulatory letter to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan over the weekend in which he said that India was looking for constructive and meaningful engagement with its neighbour, said two people familiar with the development.

Modi’s letter, which was sent on the day Khan was sworn in as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, also spoke about the need for a terror-free South Asia, but provided “no specific proposal for reopening dialogue", said one of the people cited above, requesting anonymity.

The PM’s letter was mentioned on Monday by Pakistan’s newly appointed foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in a press conference, where he said that Modi had “indicated the beginning of talks between the two countries," according to a report in the Dawn newspaper.

A video clip available on the official Facebook page of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf, Qureshi was heard saying: “Unhone (Modi) guft-o-shuneed ke raaste ke aaghaz ka paigam diya hai", which can be construed as Modi’s “message about the opening of the path of dialogue" at the press conference. However, a Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman later denied Qureshi’s statement on Modi’s offer for talks.

According to one of the people mentioned, Modi’s missive recalled a telephonic conversation with Khan on 30 July, “in which they spoke of their shared vision to bring peace, security and prosperity in the Indian subcontinent, in order to make it free of terror and violence, and to focus on development". Modi also “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", the person added, requesting anonymity.

India has long said that talks and terror cannot go together, especially after a series of terrorist attacks on Indian military establishments in 2016, which had scuttled the efforts led by Modi and Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to reopen talks with Pakistan.

According to analysts, the wording of Modi’s letter could be interpreted as “standard formulation", that is, not meaning much, or as India indicating an opening for talks.

On his part, Qureshi was quoted as saying that India and Pakistan coming to the table for talks was “our only option". “We need to stop the adventurism and come together. We know the issues are tough and will not be solved overnight, but we have to engage," Qureshi said according to the Dawn news report. “We cannot turn our cheek. Yes we have outstanding issues. (The) Kashmir (dispute) is a reality...We need continued and uninterrupted dialogue. This is our only way forward."

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