With a week to go for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan to reach Bishkek for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood arrived in Delhi Tuesday night for what sources said was a three-day “private visit”.
On Wednesday, Mahmood, who was the envoy to India till mid-April and whose family is still in Delhi, offered prayers at the Jama Masjid to mark Eid. He was accompanied by Acting High Commissioner Syed Haider Shah and other Pakistan diplomats. Sources said Mahmood’s family is likely to return with him to Pakistan.
In Islamabad, Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria met Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi on the occasion of Eid, where they exchanged greetings. “Exchanged #Eid greetings with President @ArifAlvi in #Islamabad this morning. The President expressed hope for #peace in our region.@IndiainPakistan,” Bisaria tweeted.
The two events have raised hopes of a possible meeting between Modi and Khan in Bishkek, the Kyrgyz Republic capital, on the sidelines of the SCO summit on June 13 and 14. There was, however, no official word from either India or Pakistan on any possible meetings between Mahmood and Indian officials during his stay in Delhi.
Ties between the two countries have deteriorated in the last few years, especially after the Pulwama terrorist attack in February this year. Mahmood’s visit could open a window of opportunity although Delhi has so far stuck to its hard line on dialogue with Pakistan, where it has maintained that talks and terror cannot go together.
In their first conversation since the NDA government was re-elected for a second term, Khan called Modi on May 26 and said that he looked forward to advancing his vision for “peace, progress and prosperity”. In response, Modi said that “creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism were essential” for cooperation in fostering “peace, progress and prosperity” in the region.
This was the first conversation between the two after the Pulwama attack, which was followed by the Balakot air strikes and Pakistan’s retaliation.
On May 23, Khan congratulated Modi on his electoral triumph. “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” he tweeted in English and Urdu.
However, bilateral ties dipped again last Saturday, after guests at the Indian High Commissioner’s Iftaar party in Islamabad were harassed and intimidated by Pakistan’s security agencies, prompting Delhi to lodge a strong protest through a note verbale.