Imran Khan invites Narendera Modi to restart dialogue to resolve all issues

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ISLAMABAD: Prime MinisterImran Khan has written a letter to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, calling for the resumption of the peace dialogue between the two countries. “PM hasresponded to PM Modi, in a positive spirit,reciprocating hissentiments,” shared Foreign Office Spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal on Twitter, without specifying whether the communication was via a letter. “Let’s talk and resolve all issues. We await formal response from India.” According to Times of India, PM Imran Khan specifically sought a meeting between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and hisIndian counterpart Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York later this month. During weekly briefing in Islamabad, Dr Faisal had said ─ while responding to a question about the chances of a bilateral meeting between the FMs on the sidelines of the UNGA ─ that no decision had yet been taken on it. “We are engaged in the matter,” he said.

The letter from the premier is a response to Modi’s communique earlier this month to PM Khan, seeking “meaningful and constructive” engagement between the two neighbours. Khan’s letter was in response to Modi’s own communication to him seeking a “meaningful and constructive” engagement between the 2 countries. This was after Khan said in his victory speech that Pakistan would respond with two steps to any step taken by India for normalisation of ties. There has been intense speculation in the past few weeks on whether or not Swaraj and Qureshi were going to meet at UNGA. Khan’s letter is also the first formal proposal by eitherside for a substantive engagement between India and Pakistan since government formation in Pakistan last month. In his letter, diplomatic sources said, Khan has called for resumption of the comprehensive bilateral dialogue process which was launched in December 2015 but which couldn’t take off because of the Pathankot airbase attack. In that context, Khan said India and Pakistan should look at resolving all major outstanding issues, including terrorism and Kashmir, through dialogue. It was in December 2015, when Swaraj travelled to Islamabad for a Heart of Asia conference, that India had its last substantive engagement with Pakistan. The jointstatement issued then said that foreign secretaries should work out the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the comprehensive dialogue on issues including “Peace and Security, CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Economic and Commercial Cooperation, Counter-Terrorism, Narcotics Control, Humanitarian Issues, People to People exchanges and religious tourism”. The Modi government though wants Islamabad to make the atmosphere conducive for any meaningful engagement by acting against terror groupslooking to target India from Pakistan soil. In his letter to Khan, Modi had recalled his earlier phone conversation with him in which they had spoken of “their shared vision to bring peace, security and prosperity in the Indian subcontinent, in order to make it free of terror and violence, and to focus on development. Khan’s letter also comes in the middle of disillusionment which had started to set in India in the past few weeks with the Pakistan government. Several ministers have gone on record saying that they didn’t expect things to change under Khan, not least because of hislinks with the Pakistan army. Meanwhile, India on Thursday said it has agreed to Pakistan’s request for a meeting of the foreign ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York. However, this meeting does not indicate any change in our policy towards Pakistan and does not mean resumption of dialogue, the ministry of external affairs clarified. Talking to reporters on Thursday, Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson, ministry of external affairs said that a meeting between the two foreign ministers will take place on the sidelines of the UNGAat a mutually convenient date and time. “We have not finalised the agenda yet, we have just agreed for the meeting,” he said. Talking about the opening of Kartarpur corridor, Kumar said that there has been no official communication from Pakistani government even after so many years on this, adding that Swaraj will raise thisissue in her meeting with her Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of UNGA. However, India has reiterated its stand on Saarc summit.