• Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Saudi prince meets Sharif, stresses on dialogue with India

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa in his palace on the eve of 29th Ramadan, during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, April 7, 2024. Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY

Shajil KumarBy: Shajil Kumar

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said dialogue was needed to resolve heightened friction between arch-rivals Pakistan and India during a meeting in Riyadh with visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

Sharif was making his first overseas visit since winning power in elections in February. He met with bin Salman and held talks at Al-Safa Palace in Mecca on Sunday.

“The two sides stressed the importance of dialogue between Pakistan and India to resolve the outstanding issues between the two countries, especially the Jammu and Kashmir dispute to ensure peace and stability in the region,” a joint statement released by Pakistan’s foreign office and the Saudi government said.

The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir is claimed in full, though ruled in part by both India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947, with the neighbours having fought two of their three wars over it.

The fragile relations between India and Pakistan have worsened since a 2019 suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir was traced to Pakistan-based militants, leading New Delhi to carry out an airstrike on what it said was a militant base in Pakistan.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Friday that India would enter Pakistan to kill anyone who escapes over the border after trying to carry out militant activities in the country.

The minister was speaking a day after Britain’s Guardian newspaper published a report stating the Indian government had killed about 20 people in Pakistan since 2020 as part of a broader plan to eliminate militants residing on foreign soil.

India has longstanding friendly relations with Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, which have strengthened under Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is widely expected to win a third term in office in elections starting April 19.

Sharif and bin Salman had also discussed expediting a planned $5 billion investment package, which cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its current account deficit and signal to the International Monetary Fund that it can continue to met requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages.

Pakistan said in January it had credible evidence linking Indian agents to the killing of two of its citizens on its soil. India said it was “false and malicious” propaganda.

Another major dispute is India’s abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the State into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019.

Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties and expelled the Indian envoy. India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir “was, is and shall forever” remain an integral part of the country.

The two leaders also exchanged views on regional and global developments of mutual interest, including the worrying situation in Gaza and urged for international efforts to halt Israeli military operations in Gaza and mitigate humanitarian impact. (Agencies)

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