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PM letter to Sharif amid Pak firing

New Delhi, June 13: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has written to his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif thanking him for attending his swearing-in ceremony last month, as the first major ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops since Modi’s victory threatened to upend the blooming bonhomie.

The foreign office iterated that “peace and tranquillity” remain preconditions for a “normal” relationship but refrained from the harsh condemnations it usually uses after such ceasefire violations.

Pakistani troops fired shells across the Line of Control this morning targeting forward posts and civilian areas in the Poonch sector of Jammu and Kashmir, a day before a scheduled visit by defence minister Arun Jaitley to the state. The violation, which caused panic in some villages where shells landed, came a day after a soldier was killed and five were injured in two explosions close to the LoC in Poonch.

The ceasefire violation will test Modi’s resolve to engage peacefully with Pakistan because in interviews during the elections he had said “the sound of gunfire and bombs drowned out conversation” — suggesting he was against talks with Pakistan amid border scuffles.

In his letter to Sharif, written before the ceasefire violation, Modi said he was “delighted and honoured by your participation in the ceremony for the swearing-in of the new government.”

“I was also encouraged by our discussions on our bilateral relations and the convergence in our views,” he wrote. “I look forward therefore to working closely with you and your government in an atmosphere free from confrontation and violence in order to chart a new course in our bilateral relations.”

Modi condemned the terror attack at Karachi airport earlier this week, and thanked Sharif for a sari the Pakistan leader had gifted his mother.

But the Modi government is likely to face questions from the Opposition over its plans for engagement with Pakistan after the ceasefire violation.