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Eight months after talks were called off, Sushma likely to meet Qureshi


Islamabad, May 09: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and her Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj are likely to interact during the upcoming meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Kyrgyzstan later this month, a top Pakistani official said on Thursday.

File photo of Sushma Swaraj and Shah Mahmood Qureshi

"The two foreign ministers would be present in the meeting and in all likelihood would interact amongst themselves and with other leaders," Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal told the media here.

But he hastened to clarify that "no formal meeting is, however, envisaged".

The SCO Ministerial meeting will take place in Kyrgyzstan on May 21-22.

The economic and security grouping was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and

Uzbekistan. India and Pakistan became its members in 2017.

In September, India called off a meeting between Swaraj and Qureshi at the UN citing the release of postal stamps "glorifying" a Kashmiri militant by Pakistan as one of the reasons.

The Indo-Pak tensions escalated in recent months after a terror attack in Pulwama by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group that killed 40 CRPF soldiers on February 14 and a subsequent aerial strike by India on a JeM training camp in Balakot on February 26.

On February 27, the Pakistan Air Force retaliated by unsuccessfully targeting several military installations in Jammu & Kashmir.

In the dogfight, Pakistan downed a MiG-21 Bison jet and captured an IAF pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.

Faisal also alleged that India was "causing an arms race in the region".

"India has been trying to bring the region into an arms race. Let me say that an increase in the defence budget is not the sole determinant of a nation's strength," he said.

Responding to a question that an Italian journalist claimed that 45 Pakistanis were injured in the Balakot attack, Faisal, "there is no truth in such statements."

Responding to a question about Indian Minister for Water Resources saying that India will not allow even a single drop of water to flow into Pakistan, Faisal said the Indus Waters Treaty was signed by both the countries and India was in "violation of that Treaty in the case of Kishanganga and Ratle Hydro Electric Power Projects."

"We have already raised this matter at the dispute resolution mechanism of the World Bank. However, the matter has not been resolved, as yet. Pakistan wishes that the Indus Waters Treaty should be allowed to function and the dispute resolution mechanism should take its due course. We urge the World Bank to empanel the Court of Arbitration, so that a resolution is reached in this regard, he said.

Regarding the foreign secretary meeting with the Indian High Commissioner a day earlier at the Foreign Office, he said, "let me apprise you that such meetings occur regularly to discuss various evolving issues. I cannot disclose the detailed agenda as it does not fall in the media domain".

Faisal also confirmed that Christian woman Aasia Bibi left Pakistan but refused to give the date when she left or the country where she went.

He also said Pakistan supported a political solution to the Afghan conflict and consistently maintained the position that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process was the only way forward.


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