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Sushma meets with Pak counterpart on SCO sidelines

The External affairs ministry insisted that there was “no meeting”, only an “exchange of pleasantries” in the lounge

  • Published 23.05.19, 3:00 AM
  • Updated 23.05.19, 3:00 AM
  • a min read
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (PTI)

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi met briefly on the sidelines of the Shanghai Corporation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Wednesday, but the two sides differed on the nature of the engagement.

Indian external affairs ministry sources insisted that there was “no meeting”, only “exchange of pleasantries” in the lounge where others were also present.

However, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) called it an “informal dialogue” and quoted Qureshi as stating that Sushma had brought sweets to the meeting.

“Today (I) met Sushmaji. She had a complaint that we sometimes talk in a bitter manner. She brought sweets today so we could also speak sweetly,” Qureshi said.

According to the APP report, Qureshi also said: “We made it clear to her that we want all the matters resolved through dialogue, and that Prime Minister Imran Khan had said in his very first speech that if India takes one step forward, we would take two steps forward. Even today we are ready for a dialogue.”

This is the first time the two ministers are engaging with each other, however briefly, after Qureshi became Pakistan’s foreign minister last summer.

The two leaders were initially slated to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last September but India called off that meeting at the eleventh hour. Their paths did cross in New York then at the Saarc foreign ministers’ meeting but no words were exchanged.

As for photographs that emerged of the two ministers sitting side by side in a conference room-like arrangement on Wednesday at Bishkek, MEA sources clarified that this was not of the SCO conference but from the call-on on the Kyrgyz President.