Pakistan, India discontinue Independence Day greetings


ISLAMABAD: Pakistani and Indian leaders have abandoned the tradition of exchanging greetings on their respective independence days, showing the deteriorating state of relationship between the two nuclear armed neighbours.

Pakistan celebrated its Independence Day on Monday while India marked its freedom day on Tuesday.

Although the armed forces of the two countries exchanged sweets on August 14 and 15, the customary practice of exchanging letters at the government level was discontinued.

The last time the two countries exchanged letters was in March 2021 on Pakistan Day when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote a letter to his Pakistani counterpart seeking “cordial relationship with the people of Pakistan.” Imran Khan responded in kind. The letter diplomacy came on the heels of two countries agreeing on renewing a 2003 ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC). The truce was the result of back channel talks between the two countries.

Previously, Modi wished Pakistan on Independence Day on Twitter while Pakistani leaders reciprocated the gesture.

However, the two countries and their leaders no longer wished each other on such occasions, something observers believe show the current state of ties between the two neighbours.

Relationship between Pakistan and India saw a dip in August 2019 when India revoked the special status of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir territory. Pakistan, in reaction to the Indian move, downgraded diplomatic ties with India. It suspended bilateral trade and took other measures to protest the unilateral Indian move on Kashmir.

The two countries did make an effort to bring some normalcy in their ties when senior officials from both sides held a series of meetings in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in late 2020. Those contacts led to the renewal of the ceasefire that has remained intact.

As part of efforts, both sides were supposed to gradually improve their ties with restoration of diplomatic ties to pre-August 2019 and resumption of bilateral trade.

Those steps hinged on India announcing certain measures on Kashmir. The process could not move forward as India did not take those steps while differences also emerged between then Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government scuttled a move to partially open trade with India fearing such a decision would invite a public backlash.

There was a ray of hope for some engagement when Imran was ousted from power through a vote of no-confidence as Shehbaz Sharif replaced him as prime minister. The Indian prime minister was quick to congratulate him on Twitter and even wrote a letter to Shehbaz.

In the letter, Modi had called for constructive engagement with Pakistan to deal with common challenges.

Prime Minister Shehbaz wrote back to Modi and voiced similar sentiments.

However, no forward movement could be achieved during the 16-month of Shehbaz government primarily because of political and economic turmoil in Pakistan.

Despite tensions, the Pakistan government recently granted permission to its cricket team to travel to India for the Cricket World Cup later this