New Delhi Insists Its Not Resumption Of Dialogue Or Talks
NEW DLEHI Breaking the ice in ties, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will meet her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session that begins later this month — the first such high-level interaction between the neighbours after three years.
Announcing the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, however, made it clear it is not a resumption of the Indo-Pak dialogue and India agreed to the meeting following a request from Pakistan.
He also insisted the decision doesn’t change the country’s position on cross-border terrorism.
During the meeting, likely to take place next week, India is expected to strongly raise the issue of terrorism emanating from the Pakistani soil.
The Swaraj-Qureshi meeting will be the first engagement at this level since January 2016 when New Delhi halted the dialogue with Islamabad in the aftermath of Pathankot attack, for which India holds Pakistan-based groups responsible.
“I must distinguish between a meeting and dialogue. This does not indicate any change in policy as far as our stand on terrorism and cross-border terrorism is concerned,” the MEA spokesperson said at a media briefing.
The last meeting between the two foreign ministers was held during Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad in December 2015 to attend the Heart of Asia Summit, where she had met he then Pakistan foreign minister Sartaj Aziz.
After the meeting, the two sides had announced resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue under the comprehensive bilateral format.
Kumar said Swaraj will also attend the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA.
India has been maintaining that there cannot be any comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan till it stops cross-border terrorism.
India agreed to Swaraj-Qureshi meeting following a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan seeking a ministerial interaction on the sidelines of the UNGA.
Separately, the Pakistan Foreign Minister has also written a letter to Swaraj reiterating Khan’s proposal for a meeting. Both the letters were handed over to India on September 17 by Pakistan High Commissioner, Kumar said.
The date for the meeting was being finalised by the permanent missions of the two countries in New York, he said adding the agenda for the meeting is yet to be finalised.
Swaraj is scheduled to leave for New York on September 22 morning and return on September 30.
Khan, who was sworn in as Pakistan prime minister last month, has been favouring resumption of talks between the two sides.
In his letter to Modi, Khan also indicated Pakistan’s willingness to discuss terrorism.
Asked about Pakistan’s push for a SAARC summit, Kumar said the atmosphere in the region is not conducive.
“There are number of other countries in the region who also felt that under the shadow of terrorism, it (SAARC summit) will be difficult to hold,” said Kumar.
Kumar said Swaraj will also raise the issue of Kartarpur Sahib during the meeting. The Kartarpur Sahib shrine in Pakistan is revered by Indian Sikhs, who have been seeking permission for easier access to go there for pilgrimage.
India Says No To Pak Hosting SAARC Summit
India on Thursday rejected new Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s proposal for holding a SAARC Summit in Islamabad.
Responding to a question during a media briefing here, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India’s stand the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) “has been very clear and consistent”.
“Time and again we have said that the atmosphere in the region is not conducive for this Summit,” Kumar said.
“This is not only India which has felt in this manner,” he stated.
“There are a number of other countries in the region that have accordingly felt that under the shadow of terrorism and cross-border terrorism, it is difficult to hold the Saarc Summit which is to be hosted by Pakistan.”
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi that was received on September 17, Imran Khan sought to hold the 20th Saarc Summit in Islamabad.
“The Summit will offer an opportunity for you to visit Pakistan and for us to re-start the stalled dialogue process,” he wrote.