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Qureshi begins innings at Pak foreign office with controversy

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

On his first day in office on Monday, Pakistan’s new Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi courted a controversy by misquoting the contents of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s congratulatory message to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan.

At a press conference soon after he was administered the oath of office, Qureshi said Modi had written a letter to Khan on Saturday in which he has indicated the beginning of talks between the two countries.

While confirming that Modi had written to Khan, government sources in New Delhi refuted Qureshi’s claim. The letter was congratulatory in nature and not an offer for dialogue. It was sent as a part of standard procedure, sources added.

They said Modi had, in his letter to Khan, expressed the belief that the smooth transition of government in Pakistan would strengthen and cement people’s belief in democracy.

Modi recalled the telephonic conversation he had with Khan a few days back in which the two leaders shared vision to bring peace, security and prosperity in the Indian sub-continent in order to make it free of terror and violence and to focus on development.

Sources said Modi had also expressed India’s commitment to build good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan and pursue meaningful and constructive engagement for the benefit of the people of the region.

The Pakistan foreign office also issued a statement, blaming the Indian media for unnecessarily creating a controversy over Qureshi’s statement. It said Qureshi had not stated that Modi had made ‘made an offer of a dialogue’ but had mentioned something similar to what the Pakistani Foreign Minister elucidated earlier i.e. that the way forward was only through constructive engagement.

‘’Any attempts to instigate controversy and vitiate the environment are counter-productive and against the spirit of responsible journalism,’’ the Pakistani statement said.

Meanwhile, Qureshi also stated that there was need for continued and uninterrupted dialogue between the two countries even as he raked the Kashmir issue. “India and Pakistan have to move forward keeping realities before them,” he asserted, adding that the issues between the two nations were “complicated and we may face hurdles in resolving them.” Qureshi went on to say, “We will have to admit that we are facing problems, we must admit that Kashmir is a reality.”

Qureshi also directly addressed Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj urging her to resolve issues through dialogue. “I want to tell the Indian foreign minister that we are not just neighbours; we are atomic powers. We have a lot of common resources. We have long-standing issues; both of us know these problems. But we have no other option but to engage in dialogue. We cannot afford adventurism,” he said.