India, Pak foreign ministers to attend SAARC meet today


New Delhi, Sept. 27: Days after cancellation of proposed talks between Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan by New Delhi followed by heated exchanges on both sides, Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mehmood Qureshi would be attending a SAARC meeting on Thursday.

The two leaders are representing their respective countries at the 73rd UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) and will be participating in the SAARC council of foreign ministers meet that is held in New York along the sidelines each year. The two hour long meeting scheduled to begin at 1 pm local time (10.30 pm IST) will take stock of the activities of the south Asian grouping. 

The new Imran Khan government is keen to host the summit meeting in Islamabad which was derailed because of an India-led boycott in 2016 in wake of the Uri terror strikes. Countries like Nepal which is the SAARC chair, as well as Sri Lanka have expressed interest for revival of the summit meeting which requires consensus of all eight member nations and the need for Heads of States/Governments to attend. 

Earlier on Tuesday, Qureshi held talks with Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. "Foreign Minister Qureshi reiterated importance of Pakistan's bilateral relations with Nepal and appreciated commendable interest of Nepal in reviving SAARC, which remains an important platform for forging regional consensus on all issue of concerns to the South Asian Community of Nations," said a Pakistan Foreign Ministry statement. 

However, the Narendra Modi government continues to maintain that in view of cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil against neighbours, including India, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, the atmosphere in the region is not conducive for such summit talks. 

Swaraj-Qureshi face off at UNGA on Saturday

Swaraj and Qureshi will address the General Assembly on September 29 where India is expected to strongly raise the issue of cross-border terrorism. While Pakistan is likely to harp on the Kashmir issue and flag a recent Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report. 

Earlier, K-bogey was raised at the OIC (Organisation Of Islamic Countries) meeting held along UNGA sidelines on Tuesday. Along with Qureshi, Sardar Masood Khan, President of Pak-Occupied Kashmir, was also present at the meeting. 

According to the Pakistan government statement, "The Contact Group called for impartial plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions."

Asked about India-Pakistan ties and possibility of any pull aside with Swaraj during the SAARC meet, Qureshi earlier told reporters, "I don't want to vitiate the atmosphere. We want peace and better relations. Else only two phrases are enough to spoil something. We don't want to spoil." The Tribune

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