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All eyes on Kashmir after Indian PM extends olive branch

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday sent a letter to his Pakistani counterpart on the occasion of Pakistan’s Republic Day, calling for “cordial relations” between the two neighbors in a move that marks a major thaw between New Delhi and Islamabad.

The letter addressed to Prime Minister Imran Khan comes a month after both countries announced a ceasefire along the disputed border in Kashmir.

“As a neighboring country, India desires cordial relations with the people of Pakistan,” Modi wrote in the letter, adding that “an environment of trust devoid of terror and hostility is imperative.”

The two countries came close to war in early 2019 after a terror attack in South Kashmir’s Pulwama region killed more than 50 paramilitary troops.

The Feb. 14 bombing was the single deadliest attack in the divided region, and escalated tensions between India and Pakistan.

In response, India launched an airstrike against suspected militant training camps inside Pakistan, claiming to have killed “a very large number” of militants. However, Pakistan said the strike only damaged three trees in a forest.

Islamabad responded by shooting down an Indian fighter plane and capturing the pilot, who was returned to India as a peace gesture.

India has long accused Pakistan of cultivating militant groups in a proxy war against New Delhi. Pakistan denies the charge.

The relationship between the two neighbors deteriorated further after the abrogation of Kashmir’s special status.

In a dramatic move in August 2019, India scrapped the region’s constitutional autonomy and withdrew Kashmiris’ exclusive rights before placing the entire territory under a curfew for several months, denying residents their fundamental rights, and detaining hundreds of political workers and activists.

New Delhi also divided the state into two union territories: Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

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