(Reuters)
(Reuters)

Appointment of Pakistan’s envoy comes amid speculation of thaw in ties

  • Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has named Pakistan’s ambassador to France, Moeen ul Haq, as the next high commissioner to India
  • Ties between India and Pakistan have been strained since the 14 February Pulwama attack, in which 40 Indian paramilitary personnel were killed

New Delhi: Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has named Pakistan’s ambassador to France, Moin ul Haque, as the next high commissioner to India. The development comes at a time when speculation is rife over whether India-Pakistan ties could see a thaw, after the high tension following the 14 February terror attack in Pulwama, which claimed the lives of 40 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

In a Twitter post on Tuesday, Qureshi named Haque and others, including five women and two former generals, to key missions, including those in China and Singapore.

“After consulting the Prime Minister (Imran Khan), I am happy to announce the following appointments. I wish the newly appointed officers good luck and hope they represent Pakistan with utmost dignity and effectiveness," Qureshi said in his Twitter post.

Naghmana Hashmi, currently Pakistan’s ambassador in Brussels, has been appointed ambassador to Beijing, said a report in the Dawn newspaper on Tuesday. Retired Major Generals Abdul Aziz Tariq and Mohammad Khalid Rao were appointed ambassadors to Brunei and Bosnia Herzegovina.

The appointment of Moin ul Haque as high commissioner in New Delhi was described by Qureshi as “an important posting" with the election process in India almost complete and the possibility of “new engagement" between Islamabad and New Delhi, according to the Dawn report. The post of high commissioner in New Delhi had fallen vacant in April, after Sohail Mehmood, the then high commissioner, was appointed Pakistan’s foreign secretary.

The appointment of Haque comes days after exit polls predicted the return of the Narendra Modi-led government at the centre. It also coincided with the visit of Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to Bishkek for a meeting of foreign ministers of the regional Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Swaraj is expected to come face to face with Qureshi given that India and Pakistan became full-fledged members of the SCO in 2017. The SCO meeting represents a window for both countries to begin exploring re-engagement, with their prime ministers expected to visit Bishkek for the SCO leaders’ summit meet in June, according to analysts.

Ties between India and Pakistan have been strained since the suicide attack on a CRPF convoy on February 14. India retaliated with a “preemptive" strike on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on 26 February. Pakistan then attempted an air raid on Indian military installations in Kashmir on 27 February. However, this was foiled by the Indian Air Force. The aerial battle led to Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman being taken captive by Pakistan. He was, however, released a few days later.

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