Also, officials of both nations set to discuss Siachen and Sir Creek
Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said on Wednesday he would meet his Indian counterpart in New Delhi on June 29, ahead of the anticipated mid-July Foreign Minister-level engagement between the two countries to wrap up the second round of the resumed bilateral dialogue process.
Mr. Jilani told reporters that the meeting would lay the groundwork for the July meeting. As per the format of the dialogue process, the two Foreign Secretaries are also tasked to discuss Jammu and Kashmir, peace and security, including confidence-building measures — both conventional and nuclear — and promotion of friendly exchanges.
Ahead of the Foreign Secretary-level talks, Indian and Pakistani officials are also set to meet in Islamabad on June 11 and 12 to discuss the Siachen issue, followed by talks on Sir Creek in New Delhi on June 17 and 18. The Sir Creek talks — initially scheduled for mid-May — were postponed at the request of Pakistan as it wanted Siachen to be discussed first.
Though there was no explanation forthcoming why Pakistan requested the rescheduling, the general understanding is that Islamabad wanted to gauge how far India is willing to go in demilitarising Siachen before entering into negotiations on Sir Creek, which is often regarded as the lowest hanging fruit of all the issues that bedevil India-Pakistan relations.
Resolving the Siachen issue has assumed urgency in the wake of the avalanche on the Pakistani side that wiped out a battalion headquarters — 140 men were killed on April 7. Since then, the civil and military leadership of the country have been talking of demilitarisation of Siachen but rejected the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif's suggestion of a unilateral withdrawal by Pakistan.
Mr. Jilani also played down suggestions that Pakistan had reconsidered its willingness for an agreement on a relaxed visa regime, which both countries failed to sign last month. He said a draft agreement had been initialled by both sides and the text had been agreed upon, but the signing had to be done at a political level; likely at the next meeting between the Home Ministers.
Mr. Jilani was speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit meeting in Beijing. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari — who is attending the meeting — held talks with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, on Wednesday.
India and Pakistan are observer countries in the six-member SCO, and have been pushing for full membership in the organisation. Mr. Jilani said he was hopeful that both countries would be granted membership soon and progress had been made.
Mr. Zardari will hold talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and his anointed successor, Vice-President Xi Jinping. Mr. Zardari is expected to press Pakistan's case to play an important role in Afghanistan in talks with Mr. Hu. Pakistani officials have also been encouraging China to play a greater role in Afghanistan and expand its engagement beyond investment in commercial projects.
Mr. Hu told the official People's Daily in a written interview on Wednesday that the SCO would play a greater role in the country following the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014. “We will continue to manage regional affairs by ourselves, be on guard against external turbulence and play a bigger role in Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction,” he said.
On Wednesday, Pakistan and China signed agreements for a number of projects, including the establishment of a Special Economic Zone in the new city of Zulfikarabad and the desilting of canals, both in Sindh.
Keywords: India-Pakistan diplomatic ties