Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar arriving for talks with Pakistani counterpart on March 3
FO spokesperson says ‘all issues of common interest’ will be discussed in talks
The long-stalled Pakistan-India dialogue process is set to restart during a visit by Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to Islamabad next week.
The Foreign Office on Wednesday confirmed that the visit will take place on March 3-4 and Jaishankar will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.
Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said “all issues of common interest” will be discussed during the interaction between the two foreign secretaries. She said Pakistan believes that all issues and disputes between the two countries need to be resolved through dialogue for peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
“We have never shied away from engaging India,” the spokesperson said, adding that Pakistan had welcomed the Indian leadership’s decision to send the foreign secretary to Islamabad.
In New Delhi, officials had reportedly noted that the visit to Islamabad would be part of Jaishankar’s tour of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Indian daily Hindustan Times commented in a report that the foreign secretary’s visit to Islamabad was “crucial in more ways than one”.
“After raising the bar on talks with Pakistan, the Modi government is making a new move in the dialogue process,” the report said.
Earlier, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin had said at a briefing that Jaishankar will travel to Islamabad where “India will push its agenda” during bilateral meetings with officials.
In a live Q&A session on Facebook, Syed Akbaruddin said: “We stand ready to talk with Pakistan in accordance with the Simla Agreement on all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.”
During Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to New Delhi in May last year for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration, the two countries had agreed on a meeting between the foreign secretaries.
That meeting was later scheduled for August 26 in Islamabad, but New Delhi unilaterally cancelled it because of the Pakistani High Commissioner’s meeting with Kashmiri leadership.
Islamabad has all along insisted that since India had knocked off the scheduled foreign-secretary level meeting it had to take the initiative for resumption of the dialogue process.
Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said earlier this month that Kashmir would be an integral part of any negotiations between Pakistan and India.
Kashmir, the disputed Himalayan region divided between the two countries, remains a principal barrier to full normalisation of ties between the neighbours, both nuclear-armed since 1998.
Current tensions on the de facto border in Kashmir are expected to figure during the forthcoming talks.
Preparations were underway for the meetings between the two foreign secretaries.
Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan CA Raghavan travelled to Delhi on Tuesday for consultations on the visit while Pakistani High Commissioner to Delhi Abdul Basit is due to return here soon to assist the Foreign Office in preparing for the talks.
The US and other major powers have been encouraging the two countries to sort out issues dividing them through negotiations in the interest of regional peace and stability.