Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan (File Photo)
No decision has been taken on a possible meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan next month on the sidelines of a summit in Bishkek, official sources said on Tuesday. Modi is attending the annual summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the Kyrgyz capital on June 13-14 where Khan is also expected to be present. "A decision on the issue will be taken by the new government," said a government source, without completely ruling out the possibility of a meeting between Modi and Khan.
There has not been any meeting between the two leaders since Khan took over as prime minister of Pakistan in August last year. Another source termed as "entirely speculative" reports in some section of the media that the two prime ministers are meeting in Bishkek. India has not been engaging with Pakistan following the attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.
The government's decision to invite leaders of the BIMSTEC countries for the swearing-in ceremony of Narendra Modi as prime minister for a second term on May 30 also reflected India's reluctance to engage with Pakistan even as the external affairs ministry said the invitations were "in line with government's focus on its 'Neighbourhood First' policy." Besides India, BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) 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 neighbouring countries. Sharif's attendance at the swearing-in ceremony had triggered hopes of better Indo-Pak ties. The two leaders also met several times, including Modi's famous Lahore trip in 2015. However, after 2016 terror attack, the ties nosedived again.
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 SCO chair, and Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth for the swearing-in ceremony. 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 MEA 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.