Sushma heads to Pak today amid signs of thaw in ties
After days of speculation, the government today said that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would travel to Pakistan on Tuesday to attend the Heart of Asia conference. She is likely to meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif besides Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to Pakistan PM on Foreign Affairs.
Edit: An unusual thaw in Bangkok
This comes a day after the National Security Advisers (NSAs) of the two countries — Ajit Doval and Naseer Khan Janjua, respectively — met in Bangkok accompanied by the two foreign secretaries. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will accompany the minister to Islamabad.
“External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to lead Indian delegation for ‘Heart of Asia’ 5th ministerial meeting on Afghanistan on December 9 in Islamabad,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.
The fact that India has decided to send Swaraj is a clear signal that India is willing to return to dialogue with Pakistan. This will also be the first significant interaction between the leadership of the two countries since July, when the two prime ministers met in Ufa, Russia.
While Ufa was seen as a breakthrough in the bilateral relationship, the bonhomie did not last long with Pakistan struggling to satisfy its domestic audience following the absence of Kashmir from the joint statement. The meeting of the two NSAs in Bangkok was the first concrete step forward, since Ufa. The two held discussions on terror and Kashmir, among other bilateral issues. The talks lasted four hours and followed directly, according to sources, from the brief meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharif in Paris.
The talks between the National Security Advisers yesterday covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC (Line of Control), said a joint statement issued after the Bangkok meeting.
The talks between Doval and Janjua were held “in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere”, the statement added.
It is also after a hiatus of three years that the External Affairs Minister will travel to Pakistan. In 2012, SM Krishna had visited Pakistan for talks.
Swaraj’s visit, even though it is to attend a multilateral conference on Afghanistan, is significant from the point of view of the bilateral relationship. Her visit and the government’s willingness to step down from its demand that no talks with Pakistan are possible unless terror from across the border ceases is an indication that the government realises diplomacy and politics need to be separated.
The fact that Kashmir is back on the agenda, as evident from the joint statement issued in Bangkok after the NSAs’ meeting is another indication that the establishment here realises that while India wants to raise terror, they will have to let Pakistan raise Kashmir.
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Swaraj would brief both Houses of Parliament on the present status of Indo-Pak relations upon return.
“Sushma Swaraj will visit Pakistan tomorrow and once she returns, she will give a detailed statement about the discussions with Pakistan over issues, including terrorism. The government is fully prepared to give an updated status of Indo-Pak talks and this has been communicated to both Houses,” said Rudy outside Parliament.