ISLAMABAD: The much-anticipated meeting of the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India in Dushanbe (Tajikistan) on the sidelines of a ministerial conference of the Heart of Asia — Istanbul Process, which gets under way on Monday (today) — has not been scheduled so far.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who will depart on Monday (today), for participation in the conference, told Dawn on Sunday that “no meeting has been finalised or requested”.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Office in a curtain raiser on the conference said that Mr Qureshi would hold “consultations with key regional and international partners” on the sidelines of the conference, an important platform for regional cooperation on Afghanistan.
Mr Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar’s participation in the same multilateral event led to speculations that they might meet each other especially in the backdrop of recent developments in the frayed relations between the two countries.
The last meeting between Mr Qureshi and an Indian external affairs minister took place in May 2019 in Bishkek on the sidelines of the SCO meeting.
Ms Sushma Swaraj was then holding the portfolio. Months later India annexed occupied Kashmir in August leading to a complete breakdown in relations.
The two countries are without high commissioners in each other’s capital since then and their respective missions are operating at half strength.
Pakistan-India understanding on resumption of ceasefire, reached at the end of February, and peace gestures by Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa at a security conference in Islamabad are the source of optimism about forward movement in ties.
Gen Bajwa had at the conference said: “It is time to bury the past and move forward.”
Meanwhile, media has been speculating that the two countries have been quietly negotiating for full resumption of diplomatic relations.
The foreign minister, when asked about these rumours, said: “No such decision yet.”
Heart of Asia Meeting
The Foreign Office said the conference would open with a senior officials’ meeting on March 29. The ministerial meeting will then be held on March 30.
The theme of the Conference is “Strengthening Consensus for Peace and Development”.
Mr Qureshi will at the meeting deliver a statement “highlighting Pakistan’s positive contributions to the Afghan peace process and its support for Afghanistan’s development and connectivity within the regional framework”, the Foreign Office said.
The foreign minister, besides participating in the conference, will hold bilateral meeting with the Tajik leadership.
APP adds: In a separate development, Mr Qureshi appreciated the steps taken by the Saudi leadership in resolving differences among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and the recent initiative for resolution of issues in Yemen through dialogue and diplomacy.
The foreign minister, in a telephonic conversation with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, underscored Pakistan’s continued support for Saudi efforts aimed at promoting peace, security and prosperity in the region.
He reiterated Pakistan’s support for the kingdom’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The Saudi foreign minister acknowledged Pakistan’s continued and steadfast support to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a Foreign Office press release said.
Conveying his profound regards for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Mr Qureshi reaffirmed Pakistan’s abiding fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia.
He also praised the Saudi Green Initiative and the Green Middle East Initiative announced by the crown prince terming it a major initiative for reducing global carbon emissions.
The Saudi foreign minister lauded Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ground-breaking measures already taken in Pakistan, in the same area.
Foreign Minister Qureshi expressed Pakistan’s commitment to augmenting cooperation with the kingdom in all spheres.
Appreciating the two countries’ collaboration in multilateral organisations, he hoped that this mutual support and partnership would strengthen in future.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2021