Bishkek: Amid souring relations between India and Pakistan, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Imran Khan attended the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Bishkek on Thursday but did not initiate a talk. They did not even exchange pleasantries.
The two leaders did not hold any talk during the informal dinner hosted by Kyrgyzstan President Sooronbay Jeenbekov for the SCO leaders here, sources said. According to sources, Khan and Modi did not even exchange pleasantries during the dinner.
At the dinner, Imran Khan sat three seats away from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s seat.
The awkward situation emerged days after India clarified that there would be no bilateral meeting between Prime Ministers Modi and Khan on the sidelines of the SCO meeting.
Khan pleads, Modi refuses to talk
The Indian prime minister’s refusal to talk has put Khan in an odd position, as the Pakistan prime minister had written a letter to his Indian counterpart, saying Islamabad wanted a dialogue with New Delhi to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries, including the Kashmir issue.
Speaking to Russian news agency Sputnik, Khan said he wanted to spend money on development rather than weapons.
“Pakistan is looking for any kind of mediation because it believes progress comes with peace,” the Pakistan prime minister said.
“And so we believe in peace with all the neighbours, especially with India… It is my belief that the money should be spent on getting people out of poverty. And our emphasis should be peace, resolving our differences through dialogue.”
Pleading with Modi not working? Talk nuke and Kashmir!
Khan showed his desperation to talk to India amid a looming treasury crisis of Pakistan. The country faced a $ 15.86 billion current account deficit in May last year, which has marginally improved this year at $ 11.58 billion. In this backdrop, Khan said, “When you have tensions with your neighbours, it detracts from resources that could be spent on human beings. They end up getting spent on unproductive things like arms.”
But then, Khan played the nuke card, which has, time and again, become a fallback option for the western neighbour when neither war with India helps nor India’s resolve to put all dialogue on hold. “There is no way two nuclear-armed countries should think of resolving differences through military means. Now that the (Indian) elections are over we hope that the Indian leadership will grasp this opportunity. Let’s resolve all our differences through dialogue.”
“We hope now that current prime minister [Narendra Modi] has one big mandate, we hope that he will use this mandate to develop a better relationship and bring peace in the subcontinent,” Khan said.
The Pakistan prime minister said that peace among India and Pakistan was entirely dependent on the issue of Kashmir. “The only difference, if we resolve that there will be peace in the subcontinent, that’s Kashmir. Unfortunately, Kashmir can only be resolved if the people of Kashmir are given the right of self-determination, which was guaranteed to them by the United Nations in 1945.”
“This use of force by the Indian government to subdue has backfired. The more force there has been used, the more the people of Kashmir have turned against the Indian government, the more radicalisation has come in the young people of Kashmir. And it is a future source of destabilisation of the continent. That’s why it is very important to resolve the Kashmir issue.”
Will talk to all except Pakistan
While Imran Khan is attending the SCO summit for the first time after assuming office last year, this is Prime Minister Modi’s first visit to a multilateral forum after being re-elected for a second term in May.
Prime Minister Modi on Thursday held a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and told him that Pakistan needs to create an atmosphere free from terror and take concrete action to end the scourge, but does not see Islamabad doing it at this stage. Modi met with Russian President Vladimir Putin as well.
As MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar had announced before the conference, the SCO Summit was followed by the bilateral component of the visit to the Kyrgyz Republic on 14 June. The prime minister has had delegation-level talks with President Jeenbekov.
The Indian prime minister will jointly inaugurate the India-Kyrgyz Business Forum with the Kyrgyz president.
The MEA had made it clear last week that no bilateral meeting had been planned between Prime Minister Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan on the sidelines of the SCO Summit.