Swaraj, Qureshi Meet In US Likely Next Month: Report

NEW DELHI — A meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her new Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi is “possible” in the US on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly session next month, a media report said on Monday.

This could be the first ministerial-level bilateral meeting since Prime Minister Imran Khan became Pakistan’s 22nd prime minister on August 18.

“Such a meeting (between Swaraj and Qureshi) is possible but no decision (has been taken) yet,” Dawn news quoted a senior Pakistani diplomat in the US as saying.

The External Affairs Ministry has not announced any such meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi.

In a letter to Khan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had expressed India’s resolve to build good neighbourly relations between the two countries.

In July, Modi had telephoned Khan and congratulated him on his party’s victory in the general elections and expressed hope that both countries will work to open a new chapter in bilateral ties.

The 73rd United Nations General Assembly opens on September 18 in New York.

Swaraj will address the annual high-level UNGA session on September 29, according to the provisional list of speakers released by the UN.

Pakistan is reluctant to confirm its agenda for the UNGA meeting as it is still undecided who will represent the country at the world body, the report said.

Media reports in Islamabad has indicated that Khan may skip the UNGA as part of his efforts to cut down on government expenses. However, several Pakistani diplomats and political commentators have urged him to reconsider his decision.

Pakistani officials feel the prime minister Khan’s presence in New York will add a new dimension to an India-Pakistan meeting, even though he will not participate in minister-level talks, the report said.

Dawn news, quoting diplomatic sources in Washington, said Islamabad would like to see how productive this meeting could be, particularly because India has already said that it is not ready to resume bilateral or formal talks with Pakistan.

They point out that this week, India strongly rejected a suggestion that in his letter to Khan, Prime Minister Modi had expressed interest on resuming talks.

The Indian reaction forced Pakistan to clarify that the suggestion was a media interpretation of the letter and Foreign Minister Qureshi, in his comments on Modi’s letter, never said that “the Indian Prime Minister had made an offer of a dialogue”, the report said.

Last week, a key US official said America welcomes Khan’s statement emphasising the importance of peace on both sides of Pakistan’s borders

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