Islamabad: India and Pakistan may not be in talking terms, but over the past two days, bonhomie and congratulatory messages are flying between Delhi and Islamabad. A day after PM Narendra Modi wished his counterpart Nawaz Sharif on his 64th birthday and Sharif sent a bouquet to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee who turned 90, Pakistani premier sent a letter of congratulation to Vajpayee for being conferred Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award.
Sharif in a letter dated December 26 exclusively accessed by Zee Media, pays generous tributes to Vajpayee, the political leader, the orator, the poet. Sharif has also acknowledged and thanked him for his cooperation in connecting Delhi and Lahore through the “Dosti” Bus service, which he states wouldn’t have been “on its wheels” without Vajpayee’s efforts. The letter ends with a prayer for Vajpayee’s good health and long life.
Vajpayee and Sharif were also responsible for the 1999 Lahore Declaration which reiterated “the determination of both countries” to implement the Simla Agreement in letter and spirit.
Vajpayee, Sharif and Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah share December 25 as their birthdays.
A year after both sides tested nuclear devices, both Sharif and Vajpayee stole the world’s imagination in 1999 with Vajpayee riding the peace bus to Lahore. The symbolism of Vajpayee’s visits to the Minar-i-Pakistan and Allama Iqbal’s tomb, though masterpieces of diplomacy, didn’t last long, as just two months later, it was followed by intrusions in Kargil heights. It is believed that Sharif government was not aware of the planning of the Kargil operations, engineered by Pakistan Army. Pakistan’s former foreign secretary Niaz A. Naik later on record talked about a secret understanding between Vajpayee and Sharif fixing a timeline to resolve the contentious issue of Jammu and Kashmir.