Indo-Pak: Peace bus may witness a sluggish start next week

Srinagar

Following a letter from Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi regarding the resumption of talks, 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,” media reports quoted MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar as saying. This will be the first ministerial-level engagement with Pakistan under the new Imran Khan-led government.

“India has accepted the Pakistani prime minister’s suggestion,” the spokesperson added. “The meeting will take place on Pakistan’s request.”

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.

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,” media outlet quoted Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal as saying.

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.

Earlier in July, Modi had also telephoned Imran and congratulated him over his victory in the polls. During the telephonic conversation, Modi expressed hope that democracy will take deeper roots in Pakistan and reiterated his vision of peace and development in the region.

Imran Khan, in his first speech after winning the general election, had said that he was keen to improve relations with India and wanted work to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue.

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