FMs to meet in UN but no Saarc summit: India tells Pakistan

FMs to meet in UN but no Saarc summit: India tells Pakistan

New Delhi, Sep 20 (IANS) Breaking the ice in ties with Pakistan, India on Thursday agreed for a meeting between Foreign Ministers of the two countries in New York later this month but rejected the request for the holding of a Saarc summit in Islamabad, holding that terror and talks cannot go together.

The thaw came in the wake of a letter by new Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in which he had sought a meeting between foreign ministers Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly that begins later this month in New York and holding of the 20th Saarc summit in Islamabad.

“I can confirm that on the request from the Pakistani side for a meeting between the two foreign ministers will take place on the sidelines of the UNGA at a mutually convenient date and time.

“We have just agreed to the meeting. The Permanent Missions of both India and Pakistan will together work out the details. Till then, what will be discussed in the meeting, we will have to wait till the meeting takes place,” External Affairs Ministry (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told the weekly media briefing here, annoucning the first such high-level interaction between the neighbours after three years.

Replying to questions, Kumar suggested that the coming meeting was not resumption of the dialogue process.

Khan’s letter to Modi was delivered on Sept 17 and on the same a letter from Qureshi to Sushma Swaraj was handed over by the Pakistan High Commissioner in Delhi.

When pressed further, Kumar said this is just a meeting and there is nothing much to be read into this at this stage.

Kumar also revealed that India has confirmed that it would attend a meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) foreign ministers.

“The existing policy on the Saarc process will continue. I don’t think there is any change in it,” said the MEA spokesperson.

Sushma Swaraj had met the then Pakistan’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad in 2015 and two decided to resume the comprehensive dialogue process.

This was followed by an unscheduled visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Lahore on the Christmas Day. But the bilateral ties took a severe beating after the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase on January 2, 2016.

Asked whether the foreign ministers meeting in New York is the beginning of a dialogue process, he merely repeated that they requested for a meeting and we have not discussed details.

On reports of brutality on a Border Security Force (BSF) jawan who was killed in firing from the Pakistani side, he said it was a barbaric incident and the BSF has written a strong communication to its counterparts in Pakistan.

“It is a serious issue and we will take it up Pakistan.”

However, India rejected Khan’s proposal for holding a Saarc Summit in Islamabad.

Responding to a question 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 letter to Modi, Khan said “The Summit will offer an opportunity for you to visit Pakistan and for us to re-start the stalled dialogue process,” he wrote.

Following a cross-border terror attack from Pakistan at an army base in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016 that killed 17 Indian soldiers, the Saarc Summit that was to be held in Islamabad later that year had to be cancelled as other member states of the bloc joined India in boycotting it.

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