Following a letter from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the resumption of dialogue, the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday confirmed a meeting between Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York next week.
“I can confirm that on the request of the Pakistani side, a meeting between EAM and Pakistani foreign minister will take place on the sidelines of UNGA at a mutually convenient date and time,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. This will be the first ministerial-level engagement with Pakistan under the new Imran Khan-led government.
An informal meeting of SAARC foreign ministers will take place in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA session. It is expected to take place around September 26-27. Swaraj and Qureshi will head the delegations of their respective countries to the UNGA.
However, Kumar said the meeting doesn’t signal a resumption of bilateral dialogue between the two countries. “This is just a meeting, not talks or resumption of dialogue,” he said. At a time when ties between India and Pakistan has been at an all-time low, with no bilateral talks taking place following the terror attack at Uri in 2016, it remains to be seen if the meeting is able to break the ice.
On the recent political row over the Kartarpur corridor, the MEA spokesperson said Swaraj would raise the issue in her meeting with Qureshi. “Even now after so many years, we don’t have any official communication from the Pakistani government that they are willing to consider this matter. the External Affairs Minister will, therefore, raise this issue in her meeting with the Pakistan Foreign Minister,” Kumar said.
It has been India’s long-standing demand to allow pilgrims enter Pakistan and visit the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Narowal district. The gurdwara is built at the resting place of Guru Nanak. The issue gained prominence recently after Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu claimed he was told by Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa that Islamabad would grant access to the gurdwara on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in 2019.
On September 13, the Pakistan Foreign Office said Islamabad was ready for talks with New Delhi and it was awaiting an official response from India on how to move forward on the issue. “We are ready for talks with India. We have also conveyed our position to the international community. It remains for India to respond,” Foreign Office spokesman Dr. Mohammad Faisal had said.
In a letter to PM Modi, Pakistan PM Imran Khan has said the only way forward for the two countries is through “constructive engagement”. “Pakistan and India have an undeniably challenging relationship. We, however, owe it to our people, especially the future generations, to peacefully resolve all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, to bridge differences and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome,” his letter, dated September 14, reads, according to PTI.