No precedent of how India 'trampled diplomatic norms' by cancelling meeting: FM Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said he was "deeply saddened" by how New Delhi first accepted and later backtracked from a meeting between Qureshi and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj.

Speaking to reporters at Islamabad airport before departing on a visit to the United States, the minister said it was their understanding that it would be beneficial for the entire region if countries sat down for dialogue and find solutions to the outstanding issues.

"I was deeply saddened by how India first accepted our goodwill gesture and then backtracked from it," he said.

Qureshi said the Indian government had to "look for reasons" to justify cancelling the meeting after initially agreeing to it, adding that New Delhi had used the issue of stamps of Kashmiri freedom fighters as an "excuse".

He said it was inappropriate on India's part to state a development from July (the issuance of stamps) as the reason to cancel the meeting that was due to take place in September.

"It was an opportunity [for progress in bilateral ties], which I think India's domestic circumstances did not allow to materialise," the foreign minister said.

"There is no precedent of how diplomatic norms were trampled" by India in the cancellation of the meeting, he added.

New Delhi had on Friday called off a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), just a day after confirming the development.

India Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, confirming the development, cited "unclean intentions" on Pakistan's side.

The MEA spokesperson referred to the "killing of Indian security forces" allegedly by "Pakistani entities" and Islamabad's decision to release stamps allegedly "glorifying terrorists" as the reasons behind the cancellation of the meeting.

Pakistan Post had issued 20 special postage stamps on July 24, according to The Nation, carrying photos of Burhan Wani and his two associates. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri freedom fighter, was slain by Indian troops in 2016.

Although the stamps were issued on July 24, a day before the general elections were held, the issue was raised by Indian media in the 24 hours after New Delhi agreed to the meeting.

US engagements

Foreign Minister Qureshi will reach Washington today on a visit that includes talks with the Trump administration and the new Pakistani government’s first interaction with the United Nations.

The minister’s first official engagement of this week-long tour is an address to the Pakistani community in Washington, and the same day he flies to New York to attend the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, which began on Sept 18.

The high-level General Assembly debate, however, begins on Sept 25 and is scheduled to last for nine working days. Qureshi is expected to address the General Assembly on Sept 29.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the president-elect of the 73rd session, will chair the debate on “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.”

The main event of Qureshi’s visit, however, is an expected meeting with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington.

This would be a follow-up to their first meeting in Islamabad earlier this month when they agreed to work together to “reset” the troubled relations between their countries.

A tweet by the Government of Pakistan quoted the foreign minister as saying that he will present Pakistan's stance on different matters at the UNGA session. He also expressed the confidence that his meeting with Pompeo "will prove to be important in taking forward bilateral relations with Washington".



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