Shortly after Prime Minister Modi’s surprise stopover at Lahore, on way back home from Afghanistan, earned praise from several quarters, reports emerged that the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet on January 15 in Islamabad to draw a roadmap to carry forward the engagement under the newly- announced “Bilateral Comprehensive Dialogue”.
The official announcement, though, is yet to happen, reports indicate that Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will travel to Islamabad to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry. On December 23,Pakistan establishment had proposed talks between their foreign secretaries in Islamabad on January 15 to discuss all outstanding issues. According to sources, India had accepted the proposal.
The two Foreign Secretaries will now discuss the modalities and other schedule-related aspects to carry forward the dialogue which was announced during the visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Islamabad earlier this month.
The process of resumption of talks was set in motion after a meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Paris on November 30 on the sidelines of Climate Change Conference. The meet was followed by the National Security Advisers’ (NSA) meeting in Bangkok. That was followed by Union External Affairs minister’s visited to Pakistan to attend Heart of Asia Conference.
In a move argued as politically significant, Prime Minister Modi on Friday afternoon made a surprise announcement of stopping by at Lahore and meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on his 66th birthday as he return back to India from Afghanistan. PM Modi was on a short visit to Afghanistan, following his two-day Russia visit, to inaugurate their Parliament when he had made the announcement.
The two leaders had met at Mr. Sharif’s family home in Lahore, where PM Modi also met with teh former’s family members.
According to the official sources, they held talks and decided to open ways for peace for the “larger good” of the people of the two countries.
The ruling BJP strongly welcomed the move, while the Congress party and other opposition parties questioned the government and suggested to tread caution.
“We welcome the surprise visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Pakistan. Modi stopping over at Lahore and visiting the ancestral home of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is the beginning of new era of friendship between India and Pakistan,” BJP spokesman Khalid Jehangir said on Saturday.
“We hope Pakistan will reciprocate the Prime Minister’s gesture so that both the countries write a new chapter in the history of Indo-Pak relations,” Jehangir added.
Earlier on Friday, Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was among the first one to pat PM Modi on his move, writing, “That’s like a statesman. Padosi se aise hi rishte hone chahiyen (One should have such relations with the neighbours)” on the micro-blogging site Twitter.
Meanwhile, the principal opposition party criticised the move dubbing it an “adventurism”.
“You can’t do such things in such a cavalier manner. The relationship between India and Pakistan is perhaps the most complex… In his tenure so far, the PM has done several somersaults on Pakistan. The question is what has changed? This adventure of Prime Minister will be going to have very serious implications on the national security” said former union minister and Congress leader Manish Tewari.
(With inputs from the Agencies)