The Government of India on Thursday confirmed that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking resumption of talks between the two countries on key issues “challenging the relationship”, including on terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir.
Khan also suggested a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in New York next week on the margins of the UN General Assembly.
‘’I can confirm that at the request of the Pakistani side, a meeting will take place between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan in New York at a mutually convenient time, date and place,’’ External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said at a media briefing.
He said the Pakistani premier had written to Modi in response to the Indian leader’s letter congratulating him on the assumption of his office in Pakistan. The Pakistan foreign minister had written a separate letter to Swaraj. Both these letters were handed over to New Delhi on 17 September by Pakistan High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood.
The spokesperson said the permanent missions of India and Pakistan in New York were in touch in connection with arrangements for the meeting.
He sought to emphasise that the meeting between the two foreign ministers could not be termed as the resumption of dialogue. “I must distinguish between a meeting and a dialogue…this does not indicate any change in our stand on terrorism and cross-border terrorism,’’ he added. The spokesperson also referred to Swaraj’s oft-repeated statement that terror and talks could not go together but talks on terror could go on.
He confirmed that Swaraj would indeed take up with Qureshi the issue of opening the Kartarpur Sahib corridor for Sikh pilgrims, for which the government has received requests from all political parties.
In his letter to Modi dated 14 September, Khan, the cricketer-turned-politician who became the Prime Minister of Pakistan last month, said, “Building on the mutual desire for peace between our two countries, I wish to propose a meeting between Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, before the informal meeting of the SAARC foreign ministers on the sidelines of the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York.”
Pakistan and India have an “undeniably challenging relationship”, he said, while responding to Modi’s letter to him sent on 18 August. In the letter to Khan, Modi had conveyed India’s commitment to pursue “meaningful” and “constructive” engagement with Pakistan, emphasising the need to work for a terror-free South Asia.