Sushma to meet Pakistan’s Foreign Minister in New York

New Delhi responds positively to Imran Khan’s proposal for talks
India on Thursday accepted Pakistan’s proposal for talks between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the ongoing annual UN General Assembly session in New York.
“On the request of the Pakistani side, a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi will take place on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at a mutually decided date and time,” said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.
India’s response came within hours of the news that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had proposed talks between the two senior Ministers. India, however, declared that the talks in New York would not be aimed at a broader scheme of dialogue.
The MEA spokesperson emphasised that despite agreeing to the meeting, India continued to hold the position that talks and terror cannot go together. He said, “This (the upcoming meeting) does not indicate any change as far as our policies on terrorism and cross-border terrorism are concerned.” However, the issue of Pakistan facilitating visits by Indian pilgrims to Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara is expected to feature in the meeting between the foreign ministers.
“The External Affairs Minister will raise this issue in her meeting with the Pakistan Foreign Minister,” said the spokesperson.
‘Desire for peace’
Mr. Khan proposed the new round of talks in a letter to his Indian counterpart, handed over on September 17. “Building on the mutual desire for peace between our two countries, I wish to propose a meeting between Foreign Minister Qureshi and External Affairs Minister Swaraj, before the informal meeting of the SAARC Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York,” he said in the letter, seeking resumption of the dialogue process started by his predecessor Nawaz Sharif. The Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD) had stalled after the January 2016 terror strike on the airbase in Pathankot.
In the letter, Mr. Khan also suggested that the two Foreign Ministers could discuss the holding of the SAARC summit in Islamabad, which has been delayed due to India’s reluctance to join.
No change on SAARC
However, the MEA spokesperson said India’s position on joining the SAARC summit in Islamabad remained unchanged. “Time and again we have said that the atmosphere in the region is not conducive. Under the shadow of cross-border terrorism, it is difficult to hold the summit that is to be hosted by Pakistan.”
Prime Minister Modi had written earlier to Mr. Khan congratulating him on being sworn in as the leader of Pakistan.
The New York meeting, once firmed up, would be the first interaction between the high-level Ministers of both sides since the swearing-in of Mr. Khan.
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