An atmosphere of trust, devoid of terror and hostility, is "imperative" for better relations between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan on Tuesday.
The message was part of a letter of greetings send by Modi to Khan on the occasion of Pakistan Day. People familiar with developments, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the letter as a routine message sent to heads of government or state on national days.
"As a neighbouring country, India desires cordial relations with the people of Pakistan. For this, an atmosphere of trust, devoid of terror and hostility, is imperative," said the letter.
The letter also referred to the impact of Covid-19 as a "difficult time for humanity", and conveyed Modi's best wishes to Khan and the people of Pakistan "for dealing with the challenges" of the pandemic.
A separate message was sent by President Ram Nath Kovind to his Pakistani counterpart Arif Alvi, the people cited above said.
After it emerged on Saturday that Khan had tested positive for Covid-19 and was self-isolating at home, Modi had tweeted: "Best wishes to Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI for a speedy recovery from Covid-19"
Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistan's chargé d'affaires Aftab Hasan Khan said his country desires friendly relations with all nations, including India, and the two sides should resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue.
The diplomat made the remarks while addressing an event organised at the Pakistan high commission to mark Pakistan Day. The comments came against the backdrop of a thaw in bilateral relations after the armies of the two countries recommitted themselves to the 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) last month.
"Pakistan wants to have friendly relations with all countries including India," Aftab Hasan Khan said, according to a statement issued by the Pakistani mission.
"To achieve peace between Pakistan and India, both countries shall resolve all outstanding issues including [Jammu and Kashmir] through dialogue," he said. Peace within South Asia is "inevitable" for the larger interest of the region, he added.
The chargé d'affaires spoke after raising the Pakistani flag at the brief ceremony with limited participation in view of the pandemic. Messages from the president and prime minister of Pakistan were also read out at the ceremony.
Noting that Muslims under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Jinnah had made a resolve to create a separate homeland on March 23, 1940, the chargé d'affaires said the day is observed as Pakistan Day every year.
The Indian and Pakistani high comissions in Islamabad and New Delhi are currently headed by the deputy chiefs of mission as Pakistan decided not to post an envoy in the Indian capital after Jammu and Kashmir's special status was scrapped in August 2019. Pakistan also expelled the Indian envoy and downgraded diplomatic ties.
The Indian and Pakistani armies began strictly adhering to the 2003 ceasefire on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir from the midnight of February 24 – the apparent outcome of behind-the-scenes contacts between senior security officials of the two countries.
Last week, Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa said the time has come for India and Pakistan to "bury the past and move forward", though he cautioned that any peace process would be susceptible to disruption without the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Bajwa's conciliatory remarks came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said India will have to take the first step for improving bilateral ties by addressing Kashmir, the only issue standing in the way of better relations.
The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan are set to participate in the ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe on March 30. However, it is still not clear whether they will hold a bilateral meeting in Dushanbe.