In a first during peacetime, no Independence Day greetings exchanged between Pakistan, India

Pakistani Rangers (in black) and Indian BSF soldiers take part in the Beating the Retreat ceremony on the eve of Pakistans Independence Day celebrations at the Wagah border post on August 13, 2023. — AFP

The relationship between Pakistan and India further deteriorated as the nuclear-armed neighbours did not keep up with the tradition of exchanging formal greetings on their respective independence days for the first time during peacetime,

Pakistan celebrated its 77th Independence Day on August 14 whereas India observed its a day later.

August 14 also marked the last day of Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister. The outgoing government did not receive a message of felicitation from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On the same day, Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar took oath as the eighth caretaker prime minister of Pakistan. He reciprocated the gesture and opted not to send India salutations on its independence day.

Another diplomatic courtesy was also given a miss by the Indian prime minister — that of greeting a head of government who assumes office.

Today is Interim PM Kakar’s third day in government and there has been no message from New Delhi as of yet.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) did not offer any comment regarding these new ‘trends’ in the diplomatic relations between the two countries, which had been worsened by the incumbent Indian leadership.

The Foreign Office has, however, confirmed that no greetings were exchanged by Pakistan and India on the occasion of their Independence Days.

Relations between the two countries had been sour mainly due to the constant belligerent attitude of India’s leadership but had deteriorated even more ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Modi came to power nine years ago.

Modi subverted Saarc by scuttling its summit that was to be held in Pakistan in November 2016; India also continued to promote terror activities on Pakistan soil. Indian spy-cum-terrorist Kalbhuhshan Jadhav is glaring evidence of India’s interventionist role in Pakistan; Jadhav was caught red-handed in Pakistan as an Indian spy.

In August 2019, New Delhi annexed Occupied Kashmir and merged it into the Indian Union, doing away with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir which is an internationally recognised disputed territory between Pakistan and India.

The dispute is still pending on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council. In February 2019, India initiated blatant aggression against Pakistani territory but the armed forces of Pakistan shot down the intruding Indian warplanes and captured one of the Indian pilots Abhinadan Varthaman.

Pakistan reduced diplomatic relations with India in the wake of the events of 2019, and since then the two countries have charge d’affaires looking after their respective missions after the expulsion of each other’s envoys in Islamabad and New Delhi. The number of diplomatic staff has also been reduced by the two countries.

Pakistan recently designated Aizaz Khan as its charge d’affaires in its New Delhi high commission after Salman Sharif’s return to Islamabad. India is also reportedly changing its charge d’affaires as Apoorva Srivastava could replace Suresh Kumar who was posted in Islamabad in December 2020.

The Indian High Commission in Islamabad held a ceremony to commemorate its Independence Day on Tuesday morning but no Pakistani guest was invited.

The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi too hosted a limited reception but the Indian government hindered Kashmiri leaders from joining it.

Diplomatic observers are of the view that for the Indian general elections next year Modi’s BJP will contest the polls on an anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim agenda. In the midst of all this, the scope for any improvement of relations is minimal for the time being — at least till the polls are held in India.