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Diplomacy

Ahead of Bilawal’s Visit Next Month, Jaishankar Says ‘Very Difficult’ To Engage With Pakistan

“It is very difficult for us to engage with a neighbour who practices cross-border terrorism against us," the Indian foreign minister said, indicating that there will likely be no bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.

New Delhi: Indicating that there will likely be no bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar said on Tuesday, April 25, that it was “very difficult” to engage with a neighbour that sponsors cross-border terrorism, but India continues to hope to have good relations “one day”.

Jaishankar’s remarks were the first response to the announcement by Pakistan that foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would be visiting India for the SCO foreign ministers meeting in Goa next month. It is the first time that the senior-most Pakistan foreign affairs functionary will visit India since 2016.

During a press conference with Panama’s foreign minister, Jaishankar downplayed the significance of Zardari’s visit, stating that it was part of a multilateral meeting.

“Where this particular meeting is concerned, we are both members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, so we typically attend its meetings. We are the chair this year, so the meeting is taking place in India this year,” he said in Panama City on Tuesday.

Answering the question, he said, “It is very difficult for us to engage with a neighbour who practices cross-border terrorism against us. We have always said that they have to deliver on the commitment not to encourage, sponsor and carry out cross-border terrorism. We continue to hope that one day we would reach that stage”.

While Zardari will be in India for a short visit, he will likely shake hands with his host, Jaishankar, and pose for a family photo, maybe. However, a bilateral meeting seems to be increasingly ruled out with rhetoric from both sides playing down the visit.

After the announcement of his visit, Zardari had said at a press conference in Islamabad last week that his participation would demonstrate Pakistan’s commitment to SCO and would consult with all political parties before leaving for India. When asked if bilateral ties could be discussed during the trip, he clarified that according to the rules and regulations of SCO, the forum cannot be utilised for raising bilateral issues.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army on Tuesday said that if India tried any transgression across the border, then Pakistan Army will give a “befitting” response.

“If, due to any miscalculation and misunderstanding, India tries to conspire against Pakistan, then we will give befitting reply. There should be no doubt about it… If required, we can take this battle to the enemy’s territory as well,” said Pakistan Army’s Director General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Ahmed Sharif.