The MEA remained silent about the possibility of Jaishankar holding a bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan

Though both External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi are at Dushanbe in Tajikistan to attend a conclave on Afghanistan, the two sides have not yet scheduled a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the multilateral event.

Jaishankar and Qureshi separately arrived at Dushanbe on Monday to take part in the ninth ministerial meeting of the “Heart of Asia–Istanbul Process”, a multilateral initiative to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

Islamabad did send informal messages to New Delhi through backchannels, exploring the possibility of a meeting between Jaishankar and Qureshi on the sidelines of the “Heart of Asia” meeting in Dushanbe. But as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government decided to tread cautiously, no such meeting has been scheduled till late in the evening on Monday, sources in New Delhi told DH.

Jaishankar and Qureshi will join counterparts or representatives from Russia, China, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkey at the Heart of Asia meet in Dushanbe on Tuesday.

Qureshi spoke to his Foreign Minister of United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, on Sunday.

The UAE had purportedly played a behind-the-scene role in making the Indian Army and the Pakistan Army agree on February 25 last to strictly adhere to the 2003 ceasefire pact and stop firing across the Line of Control (LoC). A day later, the External Affairs Minister had hosted the UAE Foreign Minister in New Delhi and the two had a meeting.

A news agency recently reported that they had a discussion on the possibility of working out a roadmap towards restarting the stalled talks between India and Pakistan.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi, however, did not confirm or deny the UAE’s role in back-channel efforts to get the two South Asian neighbours to return to the table of negotiation.

Qureshi also spoke to Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud ahead of his visit to Dushanbe.

Jaishankar had a bilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on the sideline of the Heart of Asia meet hours after arriving in Dushanbe. The MEA, however, remained silent about the possibility of his holding a bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of Pakistan.

Asked if he is likely to hold a bilateral meeting with Qureshi during his stay in Dushanbe, Jaishankar said at an event last Friday that his schedule was still in progress but no engagement with Pakistan Foreign Minister had been scheduled till then. Qureshi, himself, purportedly said in Dushanbe on Monday that no bilateral meeting between him and Jaishankar had been scheduled so far.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on March 17 had said that his counterpart Narendra Modi’s government in New Delhi would have to make the first move to restart the stalled bilateral dialogue between the two nations. The Chief of Pakistan Army, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, on March 18 said that it was time for his country and India to bury the past and move forward. India, however, put the onus back on Pakistan to create a conducive atmosphere for the resumption of the bilateral dialogue.