KARACHI, Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday congratulated Pakistan on its National Day.

In a message to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, Modi said his country desires “cordial relations with the people of Pakistan.”

However for this, he added, an “environment of trust, and devoid of terror and hostility is imperative.”

He was referring to New Delhi’s longtime accusations against Pakistan for its alleged involvement in “terrorism” on Indian soil and the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Islamabad denies the charges and itself accused New Delhi of patronizing terrorism on former’s soil and human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir.

Modi also extended his “best wishes” to the people of Pakistan in their fight against surging COVID-19 pandemic.

Islamabad welcomed the message from the Indian premier.

In a Twitter post, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar dubbed Modi’s message of goodwill is a “welcome step,” and said the Pakistani prime minister has been expressing his desire for a peaceful South Asia with relationships with all neighbors based on mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.

Relations between the two sides plummeted to a new low following India’s scrapping of the longstanding special status of Jammu and Kashmir in Aug. 2019.

The two neighbors, however, last month agreed to honor the 2003 cease-fire along the Line of Control — a de facto border that divides the picturesque Himalayan valley between the two countries.

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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