Modi sends Ramadan wishes to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a phone call to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday offering Ramadan wishes and announcing the release of detained fishermen, in an apparent icebreaking move after recent provocative comments heightened bilateral tensions.

The call came after a war of words between the neighbouring nations over border disputes, particularly over recent airstrikes in Myanmar and a recent speech by Mr Modi in Bangladesh that touched on its war and secession from Pakistan.

The two countries, whose relations have always been fraught, have also recently accused each other of supporting terrorist organisations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday said he had spoken to Mr Sharif about the "recent increase in the tensions publicly" between the two countries.

Mr Sharif, who had just spoken to Mr Modi, had been "extremely forthcoming", Mr Kerry said, adding their conversation had also looked at working to reduce tensions.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars against each other, notably for control of the strategic Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between them.

During the conversation with Mr Modi, Mr Sharif emphasised that "Pakistan and India should forget differences and war, and should move towards peace and harmony", his office said.

"Being neighbours, Pakistan and India should live together peacefully," it added.

Mr Modi tweeted that he had spoken to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina and Mr Sharif to extend his best wishes at the start of holy Ramadan.

"Also conveyed to PM Sharif our decision to release detained Pakistani fishermen on this pious occasion," he said on his official Twitter account.

"The fishermen released will be able to be with their families to observe this blessed month," he added.

Neither side said how many detainees were to be freed.

Fishermen are frequently arrested along with their boats by both India and Pakistan as the maritime border in the Arabian Sea is poorly defined and many fishing boats lack the technology needed to be certain of their precise location.

Both countries also use the release of fishermen to express goodwill from time to time.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2015, with the headline 'Modi sends Ramadan wishes to Pakistan'. Print Edition | Subscribe