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Pak Foreign Secretary on private visit to India ahead of SCO Summit

The visit comes amid speculation that PM Modi could interact with Khan on the margins of the summit to be held on 13-14 June.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood is on a quiet private visit to India ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will come face-to-face with his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

The visit comes amid speculation that PM Modi could interact with Khan on the margins of the summit to be held on 13-14 June.

Mahmood, who was Pakistan High Commissioner to India before his elevation in April, offered Eid prayers at the historic Jama Masjid in the national capital on Wednesday morning. He was accompanied by Pakistan’s acting High Commissioner to India Syed Haidar Shah.

Diplomatic sources said Mahmood, who arrived here on Tuesday night, was in India to take his family back home after his children’s school exams. He is scheduled to return to Pakistan on Friday.

The External Affairs Ministry preferred not to comment on the visit. It was also not known if he would make a courtesy call on the new External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar or meet Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale during his stay here.

Mahmood, a soft-spoken diplomat, has been a strong votary of good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan.

It was his nearly 20 months’ stint in India, during which he made sincere efforts for the resumption of dialogue despite an environment of distrust between the two countries, that paved the way for his elevation to the foreign secretary’s post in his country.

Pakistan has been pitching for the resumption of dialogue, which has been stalled for over two years now.

In February, both countries came close to a full-scale war after a terrorist associated with the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) killed 40 CRPF personnel in Pulwama, Kashmir.

This led the IAF to carry out surgical strikes on a JeM terror camp in Pakistan and the subsequent aerial engagement between the two countries.

Khan had telephoned Modi on 26 May after the latter led the BJP to victory in the Lok Sabha elections and expressed his desire for peace and prosperity between the two nations.

Modi told him that it was necessary to create trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism for fostering peace and prosperity in the region.