External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi exchanged pleasantries during a SCO meeting here on Wednesday and sat next to each other during a joint call on on Kyrgyz president, amid strained ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Swaraj and Qureshi attended the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Pakistani media reported that two leaders sat next to each other during a multilateral meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
According to the photos published by the Pakistani media, Swaraj and Qureshi were seen seated next to each other. On being asked about the Swaraj-Qureshi meeting, the MEA sources said the two leaders only exchanged pleasantries. "There was no meeting between them," they said. The picture of the two leaders is from a joint call on on Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, they said.
They said the Pakistani media report that the two leaders were seated next to each other at the SCO meeting is "factually incorrect and misleading". "The seating arrangement at SCO follows the Russian alphabet system which does not put India and Pakistan together. This is a standard practise at SCO meetings," they added. Swaraj arrived here in the Kyrgyz capital on Tuesday to attend the SCO Foreign Ministers meeting.
India was granted the membership of the SCO along with Pakistan in 2017. Earlier in Islamabad prior to his departure, Qureshi said besides addressing the inaugural session of the regional forum, he would also hold meetings with his counterparts from other countries. Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the February 14 Pulwama attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror group which killed 40 CRPF personnel.
Amid mounting outrage, the Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting a JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan Air Force retaliated and downed a MiG-21 in an aerial combat and captured an Indian pilot, who was handed over to India on March 1.