There is feverish speculation whether the two PMs will hold an informal “pull aside” meeting on the sidelines.
New Delhi: Pakistan foreign secretary Sohail Mahmood — who till recently was his country’s high commissioner in India — arrived in New Delhi on a three-day private visit on Tuesday night and offered Id-ul-Fitr prayers at Old Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid on Wednesday. Sources said Mr Mahmood was visiting New Delhi to take his family back to Pakistan. His children had been studying at schools in New Delhi. Reports said he was due to return to Pakistan on Friday along with his family.
While it remains to be seen if he meets India’s foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale or new external affairs minister S. Jaishankar, there are indications that no such meeting has been scheduled so far. However, a courtesy call during his brief visit on either Mr Jaishankar or Mr Gokhale remains a possibility.
The private visit is taking place even as the Prime Ministers of the two countries are both due to attend the SCO summit at Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on June 13-14. There is feverish speculation whether the two PMs will hold an informal “pull aside” meeting on the sidelines.
It may be recalled that Mr Mahmood, as high commissioner earlier, had been known for his focus on promoting people-to-people exchanges and humanitarian initiatives between the two nations. In March this year as high commissioner, he had said lack of engagement between India and Pakistan creates a “dangerous vacuum and serious risks in the relationship”, while he hoped for an “end to the long winter” and tonset of a “new spring” in the troubled ties between the two neighbours.
He had also pitched for “diplomacy and dialogue” to address “mutual concerns and long-standing disputes”, including the Kashmir issue. Referring to the “very difficult time” in the aftermath of the dogfight between the Air Forces of the two nations at the end of February this year after the Pulwama attack in mid-February, Mr Mahmood had said the two countries had “limped back from the brink”. He had pitched for the “consolidation of de-escalation” and “stabilising ties against further shocks”.