Days before the Indian government decided revoke the special status of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Islamabad and New Delhi were in an advanced stage of backchannel talks to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New York next month.
The discreet diplomacy was not only meant to arrange an Imran-Modi meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual session but also aimed at laying the ground work for the resumption of the long-suspended dialogue between the two countries.
Both Pakistani and Indian sources confirmed to The Express Tribune that the two countries initiated the backchannel talks after Modi returned to power with a landslide victory in the general elections in May.
The decision to work quietly for the resumption of dialogue was made to avoid media attention that often complicated the process.
Indian High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria, who was recently expelled from Islamabad after Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India over its Kashmir move, was leading the Indian side while Foreign Secretary Sohail Mehmood, who not long ago was serving as the Pakistani high commissioner in New Delhi, was Pakistan’s point person.
Diplomatic sources revealed that the quiet diplomacy had enabled Imran and Modi to exchange letters soon after the Indian elections.
“Everything was carefully choreographed… from PM Imran’s congratulatory tweet to the telephonic conversation with Modi,” an official said.
In fact, when both Imran and Modi were attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in June in Bishkek, the two countries had already agreed to a meeting between the two premiers on the sidelines.
However, to avoid creating hype, the two countries decided to portray the meeting as unplanned and informal.
Both sides did confirm that Imran and Modi shook hands and exchanged “pleasantries”.
But the two countries played down the development as an informal interaction.
However, The Express Tribune can now confirm that the meeting was more than a mere handshake.