After I was elected prime minister of Pakistan last August, one of my foremost priorities was to work for lasting and just peace in South Asia. India and Pakistan, despite our difficult history, confront similar challenges of poverty, unemployment and climate change, especially the threat of melting glaciers and scarcity of water for hundreds of millions of our citizens. I wanted to normalize relations with India through trade and by settling the Kashmir dispute, the foremost impediment to the normalization of relations between us.
On July 26, 2018, in my first televised address to Pakistan after winning the elections, I stated we wanted peace with India and if it took one step forward, we would take two steps. After that, a meeting between our two foreign ministers was arranged on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in September 2018, but India canceled the meeting.
That September I also wrote my first of three letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for dialogue and peace. Unfortunately, all my efforts to start a dialogue for peace were rebuffed by India. Initially, we assumed that Mr. Modi's increasingly hard-line positions and his rhetoric against Pakistan were aimed to whip up a nationalist frenzy among the Indian voters with an eye on the Indian elections in May. Agree to disagree, or disagree better? We'll help you understand the sharpest arguments on the most pressing issues of the week, from new and familiar voices.
On Feb. 14, a few months before those elections, a young Kashmiri man carried out a suicide attack against Indian troops in Indianoccupied Kashmir. The Indian government promptly blamed Pakistan. We asked for evidence, but Mr. Modi sent Indian Air Force fighter planes across the border to Pakistan. Our Air Force brought down an Indian plane and captured the pilot.
We struck back to signal we could defend ourselves but chose not to strike a target that would cause loss of life. I made a conscious decision to show that Pakistan had no intent of aggravating the conflict between two nuclear-armed states. We returned the captured Indian pilot, with no preconditions. On May 23, after Mr. Modi's reelection, I congratulated him and hoped we could work for "peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia." In June, I sent another letter to Mr. Modi offering dialogue to work toward peace.
Again, India chose not to respond. And we found out that while I was making peace overtures, India had been...