External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is in Islamabad for a two-day visit to attend a multilateral conference on Afghanistan. During the visit, she will hold talks with her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz and call on Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. This will be another step forward in the Indo-Pak ties as it signals the resumption of composite dialogue process between the two neighbours.
“External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to lead Indian delegation for ‘Heart of Asia’ 5th Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan on December 9 in Islamabad,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.
Ahead of Sushma’s arrival, Sharif chaired a high-level meeting with his top officials on Tuesday morning. The meeting was attended by Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, National Security Advisor Lt Gen (Rtd) Nasir Janjua, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz among other officials.
Swaraj’s visit comes just three days after the surprise meet between the NSAs (National Security Advisors) of India and Pakistan in Bangkok. Foreign Secretaries of both the countries were also present when the NSAs met. Issues such as terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, cross-border firing and a host of other bilateral issues were discussed. In the Bangkok meet, the two nations also agreed to carry forward the “constructive” engagement.
Swaraj is likely to meet Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday on the sidelines of the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference.
Various matters with focus on resumption of composite dialogue process between the two countries will be discussed, said Aziz ahead of Sushma’s arrival in Islamabad.
Swaraj’s visit comes three years after former External Affairs Minister SM Krishna travelled to Islamabad in 2012 when the countries also inked a visa liberalisation pact.
The NSA-level talks in Bangkok were a big breakthrough in the recently deteriorating Indo-Pak relations. The two countries cancelled NSA-levels talks in India in August this year, over a dispute on the agenda of the meet. India insisted that it will only talk on terror and Pakistan wanted to discuss the Kashmir issue with India, keeping the Kashmiri Separatists as a third party to the talks. This, under no circumstance was acceptable to India.
Almost, four months after the talks were cancelled, both India and Pakistan met again briefly in Paris, and then in Bangkok taking forward the stalled dialogue process. And now with the External Affairs Minister going to Islamabad, India-Pakistan ties are expected to improve.
The US too has lauded the efforts taken by both India and Pakistan to improve relations.
“We support any and all positive steps India and Pakistan can take to reduce tensions, engage in dialogue, and forge closer relations… We welcome reports of the meeting between Indian and Pakistani officials ” a US State Department spokesperson said.
The two-day ‘Heart of Asia’ conference, an annual gathering of Asian and other countries, with focus on Afghanistan aims at enhancing cooperation for countering security threats and promoting connectivity in the region.
The conference provides an occasion for leaders of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan to discuss regional issues during the conference and some of contentious bilateral problems on the sidelines.
High-ranking delegations from 14 participating states, 17 supporting countries and 12 international and regional organisations are participating in the conference.
(With inputs from PTI)