ISLAMABAD: Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, who arrived in Islamabad Tuesday morning, met his counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry to discuss issues related to the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation, Express News reported.
This is the first meeting between the two officials since New Delhi called off talks last year aimed at easing the rivals’ many disputes.
Jaishankar had requested for a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his two-day visit, however, the official schedule only states meetings with Chaudhry and Sartaj Aziz so far.
The Pakistani side had expressed hope for resuming negotiations known as the Composite Dialogue, so-called because they aim to address multiple overlapping issues including Kashmir, cross-border terrorism, border and water issues.
“I wouldn’t like to speculate, but naturally the two secretaries will also discuss bilateral relations,” said Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam. “We hope that this process can lead to the resumption of the Composite Dialogue.”
A senior Indian diplomat was more cautious late last week, saying that he was “hesitant to predict” whether Tuesday’s meeting would lay the groundwork for restarting negotiations.
Islamabad is expected to propose a series of new confidence-building measures (CBMs) in an effort to put the rollercoaster relationship back on track.
The new CBMs include a proposal to restore the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the two archrivals along their de facto and de jure borders where sporadic outbreak of hostilities have bedeviled their relations in recent months.
Meanwhile, army chief General Raheel Sharif warned India that Pakistan will give a ‘befitting’ response to any provocation along the Line of Control (LoC) and the working boundary ahead of the crucial meeting.
“Let there be no doubt that any provocation along LoC and working boundary will meet a befitting response,” the military’s chief spokesman quoted Gen Raheel as saying during a visit to areas affected by Indian firing along the working boundary near Sialkot on Thursday.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August abruptly cancelled the last round of talks in Islamabad out of anger that Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi had hosted Kashmiri separatists in preparation.
On Sunday in Kashmir, Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party formed a coalition state government with the regional People’s Democratic Party, which promotes self-rule for Indian-controlled Kashmir and peace talks with militant separatists. The new coalition offered a sign that cooperation is possible.
Another sign Modi might be warming to the idea of improving relations: the Indian leader telephoned Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month to wish his country luck in the World Cup cricket tournament. India won its match with Pakistan in the tournament a day later.