Jaishankar visit: India, Pakistan to talk about talks

modi- nawaz sharifIndia and Pakistan will be looking to map the way forward for improving their strained ties during Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar’s maiden trip to Islamabad March 3.

Mr Jaishankar will travel to Islamabad as part of his outreach to South Asian countries, labelled as ‘SAARC yatra’ in sections of Indian media.

Jaishankar is expected to be in Bhutan on March 1, followed by Bangladesh on March 2, Pakistan on March 3 and Afghanistan on March 4.

Mr Jaishankar will also visit Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and the dates for those are being worked out by the external affairs ministry, said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry, announced while having a live interaction on Facebook.

The spokesperson did not disclose the agenda for the talks between India and Pakistan next month except for laying out broad parameters for engagement. “We stand ready to talk with Pakistan in accordance with the Simla Agreement on all issues including Jammu & Kashmir,” said the spokesperson.

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.

Mr Jaishankar’s SAARC visit is aimed at advancing proposals of greater regional integration by reviewing various initiatives including SAARC satellites and regional university, which were unveiled by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Kathmandu for SAARC Summit in November last year.

Mr Modi had announced the visit of India’s foreign secretary to all neighbouring countries on February 13 after talking with his Pakistani counterpart as well as other SAARC leaders to convey his best wishes for their teams in the Cricket World Cup 2015 currently underway in Australia and New Zealand.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif welcomed Mr Jaishankar’s visit “to discuss all issues of common interest.”

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