Swaraj to meet Pak Foreign Minister in New York

Swaraj to meet Pak Foreign Minister in New York

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will meet her Pakistan counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the External Affairs Ministry said on Thursday.

The announcement of the Swaraj-Qureshi meeting came after the newly elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting ministerial discussions in New York to explore the way forward in bilateral relations.

However, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar was quick to point out that India had agreed only for a meeting and it should not be construed as resumption of dialogue.

“This is just a meeting, too much should not be read into the proposed meeting. This is not a resumption of dialogue. They asked for a meeting, we said yes,” Kumar told reporters here.

Kumar said Swaraj would raise the issue of access to the Kartarpur Sahib shrine with Qureshi and discussions were on to firm up the agenda for the meeting.

In a letter dated September 14, Khan expressed his willingness to discuss the issue of terrorism and “peacefully resolve all outstanding issues, including the Jammu & Kashmir dispute”.

Khan had suggested that the two foreign ministers meet before the informal SAARC foreign ministers meeting on the margins of the UNGA. “They can explore the way forward, especially the holding of the SAARC Council of Ministers followed by the SAARC Summit in Islamabad,” Khan said.

“The summit will offer an opportunity for you to visit Pakistan and for us to re-start the stalled dialogue process,” Khan said in the letter to Modi.

Earlier, Swaraj had travelled to Islamabad in December 2015 to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference on Afghanistan. She had held bilateral talks with Sartaj Aziz, the Adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and announced resumption of composite dialogue process that was stalled since 2012.

However, the terror attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station in January 2016 derailed the peace talks even before they could resume.

Government sources said that India was firm on its stand that terror and peace talks cannot go together.

India-Pakistan relations further nosedived after the attack on the Army camp in Uri in September 2016 prompting New Delhi skip the SAARC Summit planned in Islamabad in November that year. The summit was called off after Bhutan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan also pulled out.

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