In a surprise development kept secret until their meeting was over, Indian and Pakistani National Security Advisers led delegations for talks in Bangkok on Sunday.
In a joint press release announcing the meeting between Pakistan NSA Lt. Gen (Retd.) Nasir Khan Janjua and Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretaries Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhury and S. Jaishankar, and other officials, the MEA said the discussions covered “peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquillity along the LoC.”
The statement said the parleys were pursuant to the meeting between PMs Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif in Paris on November 30.
India-Pakistan dialogue process back on track
Senior officials have confirmed to The Hindu that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will visit Islamabad this week, leading the Indian delegation to the ‘Heart of Asia’ donor conference on Afghanistan. Ms. Swaraj, whose visit is yet to be announced, will leave on Tuesday for a two-day visit from December 8 and is expected to meet the Pakistani leadership.
The meeting of NSAs in Bangkok and Ms. Swaraj’s Islamabad visit are part of the government’s decision to reset the engagement with Pakistan that has suffered after the cancellation of Foreign Secretary talks in 2014 and NSA talks earlier this year, and will ensure that the governments meet at four levels: of PM, EAM, NSA and Foreign Secretaries within a span of 10 days.
The developments were welcomed by the Opposition parties, including the National Conference in Jammu and Kashmir. However Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari questioned the secrecy over the talks, calling it a “grand betrayal of the position the BJP government held so far.”
Sources told The Hindu there were several reasons for holding the NSA talks away from the public glare in Thailand, and came after both sides agreed to compromise on their previous positions that led to the cancellation of NSA talks in August.
While the government agreed to include Jammu and Kashmir in the talks along with terrorism, which it had earlier refused to, the venue of a third country obviated Pakistan’s requirement of meeting with the Hurriyat conference.
The statement issued in Bangkok said the talks “were held in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere” and “It was agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement.”
According to the sources, some of the details of the Bangkok dialogue were ironed out between the existing channels of communication between the NSA and Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit, and through Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad TCA Raghavan with the Pakistani Foreign Ministry.
Reliable sources also indicated that Indian NSA Ajit Doval may have spoken directly to his Pakistani interlocutor Lt. Gen. Nasir Khan Janjua prior to the talks.
Cricket series to return?
The newfound bonhomie between Delhi and Islamabad has also raised hopes from the cricket authorities over the possibility of a series to be played between India and Pakistan later this month.