Krishna likely to meet Qureshi in New York

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna leaves for New York Saturday on a 10-day visit during which he will represent India at high-segment meetings of the UNGA and other associated events.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who is currently in Washington to firm up the agenda for US President Barack Obama's maiden visit to India in November, will join Krishna in New York Monday.

Although no bilateral meeting is scheduled between Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, there are strong possibilities of at least a pull-aside meeting, well-placed sources told IANS.

There is a possibility of the two ministers meeting at the UN secretary general's dinner and later at the SAARC foreign ministers meeting in New York Sep 28, the sources added.

If the two sides decide to hold a bilateral meeting, Rao will first meet her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir to prepare the ground for the first meeting between the two foreign ministers since the July 15 talks failed over clashing perceptions about the scope of talks and Pakistan's insistence on a time-line for resolving complex issues like Kashmir.

The prospects of a bilateral meeting have brightened after some positive signals emanating from both sides.

In an interaction with senior journalists, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reiterated that there was no alternative but to engage Pakistan and added that India was expecting Qureshi to visit the country soon.

At an iftar he hosted at his residence, Manmohan Singh made it a point to greet and spent some time talking to Pakistani High Commissioner Shahid Malik, kindling speculation about a fresh peace initiative between the two countries.  

The devastating floods that ravaged Pakistan also had an unintended consequence as it loosened up rigidity on both sides with India first offering $5 million in aid and then hiking this amount to $25 million. After initial vacillation, Pakistan decided to accept the aid, albeit on the ground that it was routed through the UN and the World Food Programme.
 
The release of each other's prisoners has shown that humanitarian measures could go some way in easing strained ties.

On the eve of the Eid, Krishna sent greetings to Qureshi and conveyed India's appreciation on the release of 442 Indian fishermen lodged in various Pakistani jails. India reciprocated by releasing 31 Pakistani prisoners.

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