A week ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) annual summit, the Indian External Affairs Ministry on Thursday sought to clarify that “no formal meeting is planned” between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan on the side-lines of the summit.
“To the best of my knowledge, no information of meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the side-lines of the SCO meet”, the ministry’s spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said on Thursday while briefing media in New Delhi. He, however, said that Modi will attend the SCO summit.
Speculations of a possible meeting between the two leaders gained ground after Pakistani Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday, which he termed as a “personal visit”.
The spokesperson also denied a claim made by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry saying that on 22 May, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the then Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj held an informal dialogue on the side-lines of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the SCO in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
It was reported that Qureshi made it clear to Swaraj that Pakistan does “want all the matters resolved through dialogue and that Prime Minister Khan had said in his very first speech that if India takes one step forward, we would take two steps forward”.
Since 2016, India has refused any initiative for bilateral talks, contending that cross-border terror has to stop before talks can begin.
Relations between the two South Asian countries touched a new low this year in February, when 40 Indian soldiers were killed in a terrorist attack in Jammu and Kashmir. It led to the Indian Air Force launching an air strike on 26 February in retaliation. The two nuclear-armed nations reached near a war-like stage when Pakistan reportedly retaliated on the following day and brought down an Indian fighter jet.