ISLAMABAD: Islamabad has hinted at a possible meet up between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of an upcoming regional cooperation summit in Russia.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation, is scheduled to meet in the Russian city of Ufa on July 9 and 10 with both India and Pakistan likely to be granted full-membership of the forum formed in 2001.
“No side has contacted the other for a meeting, but in any multilateral setting, meetings among heads of states are a normal feature,” said Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah at his weekly briefing on Thursday.
If it does take place, the meeting between PM Nawaz and Modi will be the first high-level contact between the two hyphenated neighbours since August last year. While hostile anti-Pakistan statements from New Delhi made matters worse, there has been a lull since the Indian PM telephoned his Pakistani counterpart to convey greetings at the start of the holy month of Ramazan.
In a sign that both countries are trying to create a favourable atmosphere, the FO spokesperson also denied media reports that Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN Dr Maliha Lodhi was in Islamabad for consultations with the government to raise the issue of Indian interference in the internal matters of Pakistan at the world body.
“Pakistani permanent representative in New York is in Islamabad for routine consultations. A broad range of issues of Pakistan’s interest at the United Nations is being discussed,” Khalilullah said without making any reference to India. In reply to a question, he said the British authorities had yet to respond to Islamabad’s request seeking access to facts of the recent BBC report on the alleged MQM-India nexus.
Coinciding with the FO’s pro-peace stance was the statement of the Indian home minister, who said India also desired cordial relations with Pakistan.
“I want to say from the depth of my heart that we want good and friendly relations with Pakistan. It is our policy to have cordial relations with all our neighbouring countries, including Pakistan,” Rajnath Singh said while talking to the media in Indian Kashmir.
“If it was not our intention to improve relations with Pakistan, perhaps our prime minister would not have invited Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony in May 2014,” he added. “There will be no let up in our efforts but Pakistan will have to think about it (too). It takes two hands to clap.”
The FO spokesperson dismissed Afghanistan’s claims of Pakistan constructing a gate inside the Afghan territory, saying it was being built well within the Pakistani territory.
At least two Pakistani soldiers were injured on Wednesday when a rocket-propelled grenade and some rounds of small arms were fired from across the border. The incident is another sign of rising tensions between the two neighbours even though bilateral relations have shown significant improvements in recent months. Khalilullah insisted that a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan was in Islamabad’s best interest. “Non-interference in internal affairs of Afghanistan is the key pillar of our Afghan policy,” he emphasised.
Zaid Hamid case
Answering a question over the arrest of Zaid Hamid, the FO spokesperson said Pakistan was in contact with the Saudi authorities to verify whether the Pakistani political commentator had been sentenced or not. He also denied reports that Saudi Arabia had refused consular access to Hamid.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.