Sushma Swaraj, Shah Mahmood Qureshi to meet in New York this month-end

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi will meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York later this month, but India insisted that this in no way indicated a resumption of dialogue between the nations that was suspended in 2015.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “It is a meeting, not resumption of dialogue.”

He added Pakistan had requested for the meeting. The date was being finalised by the permanent missions of the two countries in New York.

“The agenda is yet to be finalised,” he said.

Kumar said Swaraj will also participate in the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA.

Asked if the meeting indicated a change in India’s stance, Kumar said: “Let’s distinguish between a meeting and a dialogue. This doesn’t change our stand on terrorism.”

Since 2015, India has maintained that “talks and terror cannot go together”. Government sources said this remained unchanged.

The UNGA debate will begin on September 25, and is scheduled to last nine working days.

The development comes after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi.

New Delhi, however, rejected the Pakistan PM’s proposal for a SAARC summit in Pakistan. It said the atmosphere for such a summit is not conducive. India had pulled out of the SAARC Summit that Islamabad was slated to host in 2016.

In his letter to the Indian PM on September 14, the Pakistan PM said the two countries should resume dialogue. The dialogue was suspended after the Pathankot attack in 2015.

In the letter, Khan also said Pakistan “remains ready” to discuss terrorism, and the two foreign ministers could explore the way forward. He said a SAARC Summit in Islamabad "will offer an opportunity for you to visit Pakistan and for us to re-start the stalled dialogue process."

Kumar said New Delhi has agreed to Islamabad’s request for a meeting between the two foreign ministers, “but do not read too much into it." The news of the meeting comes in the wake of Pakistani troops slitting the throat of an Indian soldier on the international border. The Border Security Force has lodged a protest with the Pak Rangers. The Modi government is also preparing to mark the second anniversary of the ‘surgical strikes’ of September-end 2016.

The MEA also said there was no confirmation from the Pakistan side to reports that it could provide access to Sikh pilgrims to Kartarpar Saheb. Kumar said the External Affairs Minister will raise this matter with her Pakistani counterpart.

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