External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Monday said that there is “no full stop” in diplomacy, only “comma or semicolon” — an indication that New Delhi is willing to move ahead with its relations with Islamabad.
Responding to a question at her first media interaction since taking charge as minister, Swaraj said, “Diplomacy mein kabhi bhi purn viraam nahin lagta, there is no full stop in diplomacy. It’s always comma or semicolon. And, after all this, people always move forward. There are no full stops in diplomatic journey.”
Last month, India called off the Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan, scheduled for August 25, after Pakistan High Commissioner in New Delhi Abdul Basit met separatist leaders just a week before the talks.
Swaraj’s conciliatory remarks came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered help to Pakistan for rescue and relief operations in flood-hit Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and weeks ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York, which Modi is scheduled to attend. Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif is also expected to attend the meet.
Sharif responded to Modi’s offer Monday. “The offer for assistance in our relief efforts is thoughtful. Such solidarity in the face of adversity is indeed valuable,” he said. “I am aware that the Kashmiris on the other side of the Line of Control have also faced heavy loss of life and material damage. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families in this difficult time, and we remain prepared to extend a helping hand, in whatever way possible, to the efforts for their relief and rehabilitation,” Sharif added.
Swaraj also blamed Basit for “derailing” the dialogue process. “I do not know what was the need for their High Commissioner to invite the Kashmiri separatists and talk to them. He himself invited them. Why did they derail the talks (with India)? What did they achieve?… Who derailed the initiative? Pakistan,” Swaraj said. She added that it was not “too much” to expect from Pakistan that it refrain from interfering in India’s internal affairs.
Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh had called up Basit about 20 minutes before his meeting with Hurriyat leader Shabir Shah on August 18, asking him to cancel it. Basit, who got a last-minute nod from Islamabad, went ahead with the meeting since it was a long-standing practice. Subsequently, the decision to call off the foreign secretary-level talks was taken at the highest political level.
Asked if Modi will meet Sharif on the sideline of UN General Assembly later this month, Swaraj said it will depend on how the situation will emerge in the coming days, and they were not going with any “preset mind”. She also played down the Pakistan Foreign Ministry’s statement offering help to India, in which Kashmir was referred to as India-occupied Kashmir.
Swaraj, who was presenting a ‘report card’ of the NDA government’s 100 days in office, also expressed disappointment over the delay in the Mumbai terror attacks case trial in Pakistan.