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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to greet him before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramzan, a move that could thaw relations between the two nations.

The Indian Prime Minister also called Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, according to posts on Modi’s Twitter account.

Analysts said the move could lead to some kind of a dialogue between India and Pakistan, marking an end to a period of rising tension.

“Spoke to President @ashrafghani, PM Sheikh Hasina & PM Nawaz Sharif to extend my best wishes at the start of holy Ramadan on June 18," said one of Modi’s posts.

“Also conveyed to PM Sharif our decision to release detained Pakistani fishermen on this pious occasion. The fishermen released will be able to be with their families to observe this blessed month," Modi said, referring to fishermen detained by India for straying across the maritime border.

Former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh welcomed the development, stating it was “significant for relations with Pakistan."

He noted that at a press conference on 31 May in New Delhi, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had said that there would be no talks with Pakistan till the red lines drawn by India were respected by Pakistan. Recalling that Modi had discussed this with Sharif during the latter’s visit to India in May last year for Modi’s swearing in, Swaraj had said that India had conveyed to Pakistan at that time that India was ready to resolve all outstanding issues in a peaceful manner, that talks would be between the two countries only without third country mediation and that the talks would be held in an environment of peace. “This conveyed the impression that India was taking a rigid stand, that there would be no dialogue with Pakistan for an indefinite period of time," Mansingh said.

“This gesture (telephone call on Tuesday) is I think the Prime Minister’s way of extending a hand of friendship towards Pakistan. I also think that this will lead to some kind of communication at other levels," Mansingh said.

Modi’s move on Tuesday is reminiscent of his actions in February when he called the leaders of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh ahead of the cricket World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand. At that time, Modi had announced he would send foreign secretary S. Jaishankar to all South Asian countries to strengthen ties. Since taking office in May last year, Modi has stressed a ’neighbourhood first’ foreign policy.

Jaishankar visited Pakistan in March along with other South Asian countries but the visit has not yet resulted in talks to normalize relations. Pakistan setting free a key suspect in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks in April put paid to efforts to start a rapprochement.

India and Pakistan had scheduled talks in August but India called them off after the Pakistani high commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit called Kashmiri separatists for talks.

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