Thaw in Indo-Pak ties likely as FMs set to meet at UNGA


–PM Khan writes letter to Indian counterpart seeking resumption of dialogue, meeting between FMs

–Indian MEA confirms meeting ‘on Pakistan’s request’, but says it must not be ‘misconstrued as dialogue’


ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj will meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York later this month, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesperson said on Thursday, hours after news broke out that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had officially extended an offer to his Indian counterpart to resume peace talks.

It would be the first such high-level meeting in years between the two countries.

Earlier this month, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in a letter to Prime Minister Khan stated that he seeks “meaningful and constructive” engagement between the two neighbours. In reciprocation, PM Khan recently reached out to the Indian premier, officially extending the offer to resume peace talks.

In his letter to the Indian PM, Khan stressed that “the two foreign ministers should initiate the resumption of dialogue and meet on the sidelines of UNGA”.

The Foreign Office (FO) on Thursday said that PM Khan had written to PM Modi in “positive spirit”.

FO spokesperson Muhammad Faisal said, “The PM has responded to PM Modi, in a positive spirit, reciprocating his sentiments. Let’s talk and resolve all issues. We await a formal response from India.”

Soon after, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “The letter we have received was a response to that letter which was handed over to us by Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India on September 17.”

“Another letter was handed over from Pakistani FM to our external affairs minister, basically reiterating the PM of Pakistan’s proposal for a meeting between the external affairs minister and the Pakistani FM. I can confirm that on the request of the Pakistani side, a meeting between the external affairs minister and the Pakistani foreign minister will take place on the sidelines of the UNGA at a mutually convenient date and time,” he added.

Stressing that the meeting must not be misconstrued as a dialogue, Kumar said, “I must differentiate between meeting and a dialogue. This is a meeting and not dialogue. This is a meeting which we have agreed to, based on a request which we have got from the Pakistani side.”

PM Khan, in his letter, had acknowledged that the relations between both countries face several challenges but Pakistan is ready for talks on all issues, including terrorism.

“India and Pakistan should look to resolve all major outstanding issues, including Kashmir, Sir Creek and Siachen, through dialogue,” the prime minister wrote in his letter.

PM Khan also stressed that the two neighbours will have to take measures for the peace and betterment of their nations as well as the future generations.

Referring to the long-standing dispute of Kashmir – large parts of which are under Indian occupation – the premier hoped that dialogue between the two countries will also focus on the issue.

On August 31, PM Khan said that his government wanted to develop good relations with the neighbouring country.

Earlier in July, PM Modi had also telephoned PM Khan and congratulated him over his victory in the polls. During the telephonic conversation, PM Modi expressed hope that democracy will take deeper roots in Pakistan and reiterated his vision of peace and development in the region.

PM Khan, in his first speech after winning the general elections, had said that he was keen to improve relations with India and wanted work to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue.

Times of India had also reported that the prime minister asked for a renewal of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process which was launched in 2015. It was in December of the same year that Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Islamabad for the Heart of Asia conference.

However, with Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gearing for elections by the middle of next year, prospects of a rapprochement are low. The BJP has long advocated a tough stance towards Pakistan.