The participation of both Indian External Affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had sparked speculation of a possible meeting between the two leaders amidst recent peace overtures from the Pakistan Army.
While announcing his participation, the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement on Friday said Jaishankar is expected to meet leaders of other participating countries on the sidelines of the 9th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) ministerial conference.
However, Jaishankar and Qureshi had a bumpy and awkward encounter when they gathered for a group picture during the summit. They constantly avoided each other.
Jaishankar engaged with key stakeholders of the Afghanistan peace dialogue including Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif. He extended support to a regional process on peace in Afghanistan under the United Nations umbrella.
The process was proposed by the US, in a letter by the US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. The proposal calls for the meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and the US under the United Nations for a “unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan”.
The last meeting between Qureshi and an Indian external affairs minister took place in May 2019 in Bishkek on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting. Late Sushma Swaraj was then holding the portfolio of the external affairs minister.
On March 18, Pakistan’s powerful Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said it was time for India and Pakistan to ”bury the past and move forward.”
India has said it desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence and that the onus is on Islamabad to create an environment free of terror and hostility.
The HoA-IP ministerial conference is part of the Istanbul Process, a regional initiative on security and cooperation for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan that was launched on November 2, 2011, in Turkey.
With India’s participation at the Heart of Asia Summit, it finally has a formal seat at the table for the peace negotiations.
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