India and Pakistan renewed their engagement after months of frosty tensions as Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar conveyed New Delhi’s concerns on terrorism and 26/11 justice even as the two subcontinental neighbours agreed to narrow down differences to find common ground and map the way forward.
Mr Jaishaknkar held wide-ranging talks with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary, seven months after India had cancelled foreign secretary-level talks on account of Pakistan’s envoy’s meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders.
Mr Jaishankar struck a cautiously optimistic note on the future trajectory of this accident-prone relationship.
“Naturally, my visit provided an opportunity to discuss our bilateral relations. We engaged on each other’s concerns and interests in an open manner. We agreed to work together to find common ground and narrow differences,” Mr Jaishankar said after the talks.
India’s top diplomat stressed that he “reiterated our known concerns on cross border terrorism, including on the Mumbai case.”
“We agreed that ensuring peace and tranquillity on the border was vital,” he added, stressing that the talks “were held in a constructive and positive atmosphere.”
With Pakistan set to take over the chairmanship of SAARC, the two top diplomats discussed issues related to regional integration in South Asia.
“I conveyed the expectations of our leadership on SAARC and their determination to forge a cooperative relationship with all our neighbours,” Mr Jaishankar said.
“We discussed ideas and initiatives to take SAARC forward. Pakistan will be the next SAARC Chair and India would like to work with Pakistan to help SAARC achieve its potential.”
Mr Jaishankar began his SAARC trip on March 1 with Bhutan and visited Bangladesh the next day. On March 3, Mr Jaishankar began his trip to Pakistan. He was received by Indian high commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan at the airport.
“These negotiations will help to lower hostilities along the working boundary. The prime ministers of India and Pakistan can also meet at some point after the resumption of talks,” Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on March 2.
According to Pakistani media reports, Pakistan would propose new confidence-building measures, including the restoration of the 2003 ceasefire agreement to end hostilities along its border with India during the meeting. However Pakistani officials said it was “just speculation.”
“We have noted that visit is in the context of SAARC. However, when the foreign secretaries meet, bilateral relations would be discussed. We expect this interaction would lead to resumption of the dialogue process,” Mr Aziz said.
Bilateral relations between the two nations had nosedived when India called off foreign secretary-level talks in August 2014 after Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Kashmiri separatists in Delhi, ignoring India’s request not to go ahead with the meetings.
India has been deeply concerned with Pakistani troops’ 685 ceasefire violations in the past eight months, which led to 24 Indians being killed. On the other hand, Pakistan has accused India of “unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing during the same period.
Mr Jaishankar’s SAARC visit is aimed at advancing proposals of greater regional integration, which were purposed by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Kathmandu for SAARC Summit in November 2014.
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