Pakistan and India need to consolidate the process of de-escalation and stabilise the ties against further shocks, Pakistani envoy Sohail Mahmood said on Friday, hoping that the 'long winter' in bilateral relations would come to an early end.
In an address at a reception in New Delhi on the eve of Pakistan's National Day, he said both the countries should act with 'wisdom' to normalise ties, asserting that 'coercive measures' have not worked in the past and will not work in the future.
The envoy said a key takeaway from recent developments was that a lack of engagement creates 'dangerous vacuum and serious risks' for relations between the two neighbours, adding Pakistan has 'turned a corner' in its fight against the scourge of terrorism.
Mahmood said diplomacy and dialogue remained indispensable for enhancing mutual understanding, mutual concerns, and resolving long-standing disputes, including Jammu and Kashmir.
"As we limp back from the brink, we must make sure that we act with wisdom to find a way forward -- for our countries, and for our peoples," he said.
He said the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, return of the two High Commissioners to their respective missions, and bilateral meetings on the Kartarpur Corridor 'are steps in a positive direction'.
"There is, however, still the need to reassure concerned citizens in both countries, to consolidate the process of de-escalation, and to stabilise the ties against further shocks," he added.
The Pakistan envoy said his government is taking steps against terror groups, adding, "There is a real transformation underway in Pakistan."
"We do hope the long winter in India-Pakistan relations would come to an early end," he said.
"The founding fathers of Pakistan and India had envisaged amicable relations between the two countries.
"However, the relationship has remained challenged, for most part of our history as free nations. In particular, the two countries passed through a very difficult time recently," he said.
A relationship based on sovereign equality, mutual respect and mutual interest is the best guarantee for a peaceful and prosperous future, the envoy said.
People of goodwill must continue to work for a new spring in the relationship -- one that enables the two countries' teeming youth to fulfil their aspirations, and the two nations to achieve their optimal potential, Mahmood said.
"South Asia, our common home, must march forward with stable peace, equal security and shared prosperity. We must remember that, ultimately, hope always triumphs over fear," he said.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian Air Force fighter jets bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed's training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan on February 26.
Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations the next day. However, the Indian Air Force thwarted their plans.
India boycotts Pak National Day event over invitation to Hurriyat leaders
Meanwhile, India boycotted the reception at the Pakistan High Commission, objecting to invites extended to several separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir for the event.
The External Affairs Ministry said no Indian representative will attend similar events in Islamabad as well.
Over the years, India's representation at the annual event has been at the level of a Union minister.
"India has decided not to send any representative to attend the Pakistan National Day celebrations today.
"This decision was taken after the Pakistan High Commission decided to invite representatives of the Hurriyat Conference to the reception," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar earlier said.
Pakistani officials said no prominent Hurriyat Conference leader attended the reception.
Meanwhile, Delhi Police detained Kashmiri human rights activist Mohammed Ahsan Untoo outside the Pakistan High Commission when he was coming for the reception.
Pakistan Day is celebrated to mark the Lahore Resolution on March 23 each year.
At a media briefing, Kumar also said that India is very clear that any attempt by the Pakistani High Commission or Pakistani leadership to engage with the Hurriyat Conference will not be taken lightly.
India has been strongly opposed to Pakistan engaging with separatists leaders of Jammu and Kashmir.
"Our High Commission in Islamabad will also not be attending the reception there," Kumar said, replying to a question.
Sources said last week India conveyed to the Pakistan High Commission that it will not send any representative to the reception if Hurriyat leaders are invited to it.
They said India is boycotting the events for extending invitation to Hurriyat leaders and not because of any other issue.
Last year, the reception at the Pakistan embassy was attended by Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
Some low-ranking leaders from a number of separatist outfits from Kashmir also attended the reception.