New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanged pleasantries with his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan in Bishkek on Friday against the backdrop of simmering tensions between the two countries following a terrorist attack in Kashmir in February.
According to a person familiar with the development, the exchange consisted of “usual pleasantries" and it was not a meeting between the two leaders.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi too said that the exchange between the prime ministers was an 'informal' one.
“The Pakistani Prime Minister congratulated him on his victory and of course he has won with a heavy mandate by defeating a major political family," Qureshi was quoted as saying by news reports.
Ties between India and Pakistan got frayed after the 14 February suicide attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama region that was claimed by a Pakistan based terrorist group. India on 26 February bombed a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot region. And on 27 February, Pakistan retaliated by targeting military installations in Kashmir. Pakistan’s air raid was however foiled by Indian Air Force fighter jets.
Since Modi’s re-election in the April-May polls, there was some speculation that the two leaders coming face to face at Bishkek could see the start of a possible thaw between the two countries. This was strengthened by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran khan sending his congratulations to Modi via a Twitter post, a personal telephone call and a reported letter addressed to Modi that the the Indian foreign ministry is yet to confirm. Indian officials, however, said no meeting was planned between the two leaders at Bishkek.
Official talks between the two countries remain suspended due to terrorist attacks from groups in Pakistan.
The tenuous nature of India-Pakistan ties was illustrated by another development on Friday —- the Indian foreign ministry registering a strong protest at Pakistan government’s refusal to grant a visa for a group of 87 pilgrims wanting to visit a Sikh shrine in Pakistan on the occasion of Shahidi Jor Mela. This falls on the martyrdom day of Sikh Guru Arjan Dev on 7 June. The Indian foreign ministry had earlier requested visas for the pilgrims.
“The Ministry expressed its concern at the disregard shown by the High Commission of Pakistan on the religious sentiments and devotion of the Indian pilgrims especially by Pakistan unilaterally granting restrictive visa (by rail only) to a private group of Indian pilgrims. MEA called upon Pakistan to immediately grant visa without any restriction," a person familiar with the development said.