ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Friday shook hands and exchanged ‘pleasantries’ on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Kyrgyzstan, according to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
“There was no structured meeting as such but they did exchange pleasantries,” Qureshi told reporters in Bishkek, where he was accompanying the prime minister for the regional summit.
This was the first interaction between the two leaders since Imran Khan became the prime minister and Modi also returned to power after the recent Indian parliamentary elections.
The informal meeting took place against the backdrop of tense ties between the two neighbours, which were on the brink of war in February after the Pulwama attack.
Earlier, there were reports that Modi and Imran might have a formal meeting on the margins of SCO but later the two sides denied taking any such decision.
The Indian prime minister even did not use the Pakistani airspace to travel to Bishkek despite the fact that Islamabad granted permission as it did last month when former foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visited Kyrgyzstan for the ministerial meeting.
Modi government’s move of not using Pakistani air space is seen as a setback for any possible engagement between the two countries in the near future.
PM Imran has been repeatedly offering India to enter a dialogue to discuss all issues, including New Delhi’s concerns about terrorism but the neighbouring country has yet to reciprocate the offer.
Imran was quick to congratulate Modi on his election victory on Twitter, raising hopes of a possible thaw in ties.
Just ahead of the summit, Foreign Minister Qureshi acknowledged that it appeared that the Modi government was still in election mode as it was not willing to engage with Pakistan.
He went on to say that Pakistan would not beg for talks either.
Qureshi’s statement reflects the frustration on part of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, which after taking charge in August 2018 made several offers for talks but to no avail.