New Delhi | India’s policy of not having talks with Pakistan unless it stops cross border terrorism remains unchanged and no decision has been taken yet on any meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Bishkek next month, official sources said.
India has not been engaging with Pakistan since early 2016 following a terror attack on the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot in January that year, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.
Modi is attending the annual summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Kyrgyztan’s capital Bishkek on June 13-14. Khan is also scheduled to participate in the annual meet of the China-dominated grouping.
Government sources said no decision has been taken on any meeting between Modi and Khan on the sidelines of the SCO summit. “A decision on the issue will be taken by the new government,” said a source.
In a reflection of India’s reluctance to engage with Pakistan, the government has preferred to invite leaders of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) countries for the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as prime minister for a second term on May 30.
Besides India, BIMSTEC comprises Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.
In 2014, Modi had invited all SAARC leaders including the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his swearing-in ceremony, in a major initiative to reach out to the neighbourhood.
Sharif’s attendance at the swearing-in ceremony had triggered hopes of better ties between the two countries and there were several engagements between the leaders of the two countries. However, the ties derailed again after January 2016.
In a carefully crafted move, the government has this time decided to invite BIMSTEC leaders apart from Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, who is the current chair of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth for the swearing-in ceremony.
“This is in line with government’s focus on its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy,” the Ministry of External Affairs said Monday.
On Sunday, Khan called up Modi to congratulate him on his re-election. It was their first telephonic conversation after the Balakot airstrikes.
During the conversation, the Ministry of External Affairs said, Modi told Khan that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism was essential for fostering peace and prosperity in the region.
Recalling his initiatives in line with his government’s “neighbourhood first” policy, Modi referred to his earlier suggestion to Khan to fight poverty jointly, the MEA said.