The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan are to meet on the sidelines of the UN general assembly next week in the first high-level contact between the neighbours in nearly three years.
India’s external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, will meet her Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in New York during the assembly starting on Monday.
The meeting was proposed by the newly elected Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, in a letter to the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, sent earlier this month and made public on Thursday.
India stressed the interaction between the officials did not mean peace talks had resumed. “This is just a meeting,” Raveesh Kumar, the spokesman for the Indian ministry of foreign affairs said on Thursday. “This is not a resumption of dialogue. They asked for a meeting and we said yes.”
Senior officials from the nuclear-armed neighbours have had no public contact since early 2016, when nascent peace talks were suspended after militants attacked an Indian army air force base near the Pakistan border in Punjab state.
India says the attack was carried out by Jaish-e-Mohammad, a militant group alleged to have close ties to Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus.
Relations grew worse in September 2016, when gunmen from another Pakistan-based jihadi group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked an army base in the Kashmir region, killing 18 troops.
In response, India sent elite soldiers into Pakistan territory to destroy what it said were militant staging grounds, and Modi called Pakistan a “mothership of terrorism”.
Khan, a former cricketer turned politician, peppered his campaign speeches with anti-India rhetoric but reached out to Delhi in the first days of his leadership to propose the meeting.
“Pakistan and India have an undeniably challenging relationship,” he wrote. “We, however, owe it to our peoples, especially the future generations, to peacefully resolve all outstanding issues.”
He added: “Pakistan remains ready to discuss terrorism.”
Pakistan’s alleged sponsorship of militant attacks, including a four-day killing spree in Mumbai by members of Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2008, is a major sticking point in relations between the countries. So is the fate of Kashmir, a Himalayan region divided between the pair but claimed in full by both.
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