ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and India hope to revive a stalled dialogue process with a high-level interaction on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September, officials said.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi is expected to meet Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New York on the sidelines of the UNGA meeting to boost chances of the revival of the bilateral dialogue, officials at the foreign ministry said. The top diplomats of Pakistan and India will attend 73rd session of the UNGA to begin on September 18.
One official told The Nation that the two countries were in contact to finalise the issues to be discussed in the meeting. He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had given a ‘go-ahead’ for the Qureshi-Swaraj meeting which he believed would help improve ties.
Another official said that both the countries were ‘positive’ on revival of the dialogue process and were ‘willing to engage.’
Last week, FM Qureshi said that Pak-India relations were victim of delays, adding that both the countries would have to look into the prospects as to how they could move forward. He said that dialogue was the only way forward to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries. “But we can’t clap with one hand. As the PM has said, if they take one step, we will take two,” he added.
Qureshi said that Pakistan wanted peace and was not shy of engagement with New Delhi. He said that talks were the only way forward, which currently were ‘stalled.’
This month, Indian premier Nerendra Modi felicitated Imran Khan on becoming Pakistan’s PM. Both the leaders also agreed to overcome the past and to lay a new foundation for a prosperous political, social and economic future.
Modi had told PM Khan that India was ready for a ‘new era of ties’ with Pakistan and called for crafting collective strategy for combating regional challenges. Khan also stressed for resuming talks, adding that issues could not be resolved through wars.
Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammed Faisal said that Pakistan’s position was clear on relations with India. “We are ready to talk on all outstanding issues. Kashmir dispute remains the cardinal issue among these, which also includes issue of Sir Creek and Siachen as well as people-to-people contacts, trade and prisoners,” he added.
The spokesperson said that Pakistan had consistently maintained that the only way forward was through a comprehensive, result-oriented, uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues. “We are also ready to talk about the issue of terrorism, which is a global phenomenon, and calls for global and concerted action,” he maintained.
This year, Pakistan had extended MunaBao (India)-Khokhrapar (Pakistan) rail link agreement with India for another 3 years, from February 1, 2018 to January 31, 2021. The agreement was signed in 2006. The rail link facilitates people-to-people to contact which Pakistan believes is essential for improving relations between both the countries. The Munabao-Khokhrapar train service connects Pakistan’s Sindh and India’s Rajasthan provinces.
The extension in agreement came amid high tension between Pakistan and India. The two countries have been at loggerheads since the killing of a Kashmiri freedom fighter, Burhan Wani, in July 2016. An attack on Indian forces in September 2016 that killed 19 soldiers in Uri area of held Kashmir had further heightened the tensions.
Later, India committed ceasefire violations along Line of Control (LoC) that resulted in deaths on both the sides. India had also claimed that it had carried out a ‘surgical strike’ inside Pakistan to avenge the Uri attack. Pakistan rejected the Indian assertion.
Separately, Chinese ambassador Yao Jing held a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday. Yao Jing reiterated that “Pakistan and China are Iron Brothers” and close friends, said a foreign ministry statement. He repeated the Chinese government’s desire to work closely with the new government of Pakistan to further strengthen Pakistan-China bilateral relations, the statement added.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Pakistan and China were close friends and strong partners. He reiterated determination of the new government of Pakistan to take strategic cooperative partnership between Pakistan and China to new heights. He welcomed upcoming visit of China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Pakistan in September and looked forward to an in-depth exchange of views with him on all matters of mutual interest.
Praising the vision of President Xi Jinping for China’s socio-economic development, he said, “Pakistan could learn much from Chinese experience in socio-economic development, particularly agriculture, as Pakistan is basically an agrarian economy.