Indo-Pak Foreign Ministers to meet in NY, India says “not resumption of dialogue”

Srinagar: Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers will meet in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week, the government said today.

“It is a meeting, not resumption of dialogue,” asserted foreign ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

As per reports, a formal proposal is on the table for Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mehmood Qureshi to meet on the sidelines of the SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation) Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in New York.

The SAARC meeting, an annual event on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session, is slated for September 27.

“Both sides are in touch. It is a work in progress. Though nothing has been scheduled yet,” a senior official was quoted saying by The Tribune.

The possibility of a separate bilateral engagement a day prior to the SAARC meeting between Swaraj and the new Pakistan Foreign Minister in the Imran Khan cabinet is being looked into, reports said.

The meeting could help break the deadlock on the SAARC summit, to be hosted by Pakistan but an India-led boycott continues since the Uri attack in 2016.

The Pakistan Army chief and Indian ministers, including Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V.K. Singh, however, have indulged in provocative statements against each other recently on Kashmir and cross-border infiltration.

On Pakistan, the BJP government has stated that “talks on terror are possible, but talks and terror cannot go together.” The two countries have not had a sustained official dialogue since 2012.

Following the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Ufa SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) summit in July 2015. Swaraj had travelled to Islamabad later that year for the Heart of Asia meeting, holding talks with the then counterpart Sartaj Aziz.

However, a formal dialogue between the neighbours has not resumed. Prime Minister Modi’s congratulatory telephone call to PM Khan after he won the election and the subsequent letter following his oath-taking ceremony raised hopes of a positive climate in ties.

The US also recently said that it would support a peaceful dialogue between India and Pakistan. Top serving diplomat, South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells, who was part of the delegation of Secretary of State Pompeo during his visit to Pakistan and India, in a media interaction said, “In general, the US supports dialogue between India and Pakistan that can reduce tensions. We understand and have had frequent conversations with our Indian partners on the expectations that there be demonstrable reduction in the cross-border terrorism and infiltration that will help create confidence for a dialogue to take place.”

On this latest development, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) welcomed the step and said that sustainable and meaningful development is must for the resolution of all impending issues.

“We welcome both the intention and initiative. People of J&K are the worst suffers of the enmity between the two neighbors and as such any measure towards amity is warmly welcomed,” the PDP said in a tweet.

The party president and Ex-CM of Jammu and Kashmir in another tweet welcomed the step by Pakistan. “Accepting peace overtures of Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan by agreeing to a meeting between India & Pakistan’s Foreign Ministers is a welcome step. Even though it has come towards the fag end of NDA’s tenure, better late than never,” tweeted Mehbooba Mufti.

However, Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also welcomed the decision and tweeted that people of Jammu and Kashmir always support every initiative of lasting peace, whose assured way is through resolution of Kashmir dispute.

“Welcome Pakistan Prime Minister @ImranKhanPTI positive response of resolving issues including Kashmir through constructive & meaningful dialogue.People of J&K always support every initiative of lasting peace,whose  assured way is through resolution of #KashmirDispute as per…..,” tweeted Mirwaiz Umar.

He also hopes that Prime Minister Modi will show a positive response to it.

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