Qureshi-Sushma handshake in Bishkek could lead to future talks

Imran, Modi will be in UK soon amid meeting rumours

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and India may have to wait for a significant bilateral meeting but a handshake between Foriegn Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in Bishkek could set the tone for future dialogue.

The two top diplomats of the nuclear armed neighbours are in Kyrgyzstan to attend the two-day meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that no formal meeting between Qureshi and Swaraj had been planned. “There will still be handshakes and pleasantries. Hopefully this will be the beginning of the dialogue process soon,” said an official.

Another official said that Pakistan was not against a formal meeting between the FMs but had waited for India’s request. “India had stopped the dialogue process and we want them to restart it,” he added.

Before flying to Bishkek, the foreign minister said that he will have an opportunity to exchange views with foreign ministers of eight countries, who will be attending the meeting.

Besides, Qureshi said he will hold bilateral meetings with three dignitaries, including the foreign ministers of China and Russia.

The Foreign Minister said Pakistan is concerned over the regional situation evolving in the context of Iran. He said he will discuss the Iran issue with the foreign ministers of the two member countries of P-5 to get their input on the issue.

Pakistan and India are hopeful of a meeting between Pakistan and Indian Prime Ministers in the United Kingdom in the coming weeks.

Imran Khan and the Indian PM are likely to visit London to watch world cup cricket matches in the same week of June this year and there was a strong possibility of both the leaders meeting.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will fly to London on June 12 on a three-day official visit. This would be his first visit to the UK after assuming office last year.

He is scheduled to hold meeting with his British counterpart Theresa May and discuss matters of bilateral interest and trade. The PM will discuss matters pertaining to Afghan peace process with the British leadership.

Imran Khan is expected to hold meetings with the Pakistani community. He will also hold separate meetings with British and Pakistani investors.

The United Kingdom has already conveyed to Pakistan and India that it is ready to host Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart - Narendra Modi or any new elected Indian premier after the national polls - for talks amid speculations of a meeting in London on the sidelines of cricket World Cup in the coming weeks.

Indian election trend so far suggests that Narendra Modi will win the election again, albeit with a reduced margin of victory. He has taken a harsh stance against Pakistan during the election campaign to win hardline right-wing votes but it is hoped that Indian position of brinkmanship will change once the election fever is over and there will be calls from within Indian for constructive dialogue with Pakistan.

Tensions between Pakistan and India have been high 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 - further heightened the tensions. India also claimed it had carried a “surgical strike” to avenge the Uri attack. Pakistan rejected the Indian assertion.


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