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India, Pakistan pick up talks thread

Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar wrapped up talks with his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhury in Islamabad without any announcements, but a “broad understanding to continue the dialogue process” official sources told The Hindu. This was the first such meeting since 2012, and seven months after the last planned foreign secretary talks were cancelled by India. Mr. Jaishankar also met with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and handed over a letter from Prime Minister Modi, even as Mr. Sharif welcomed the “resumption of talks between India and Pakistan”.

Significantly, Pakistan avoided obvious controversies ahead of the talks. Pakistan high commissioner Abdul Basit stayed away from publicly-held talks with the separatist Hurriyat leadership before the meeting, which had led to the Indian government's cancellation of talks in July 2014 . Pakistan's Foreign Secretary also said that the two sides should "discourage hostile propaganda" and said that on Jammu and Kashmir, India and Pakistan should move to resolve the dispute and others through dialogue.

In a statement after the talks Mr. Jaishankar, who said they had been held in a “constructive and positive atmosphere”, said India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism and the pace of the Mumbai 26/11 trial had been taken up. In a press conference a few hours later, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary said that “both countries were equally affected by terrorism,” as Pakistan raised what it called India’s “involvement in FATA and Balochistan” the “lack of evidence-sharing” in the Samjhauta express blasts case.

However, an official present at the talks confirmed Pakistan didn't hand over any evidence to support its claims on Indian support to Baloch groups.

Apart from exchanging concerns over terror, the two sides discussed ceasefire violations at Line of Control (LoC) and international border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir, with Mr. Jaishankar calling it a key concern. According to a government reply in parliament, Pakistan’s ceasefire violations numbered more than 685 times in the past 8 months which led to 24 people being killed. Pakistan has also accused India of “unprovoked and indiscriminate” firing during the same period, and claims Indian troops have killed several civilians as well as troops along the border.

Earlier, an official had said that India was hoping this visit would prove, at best, an “ice-breaker” for Mr. Jaishankar, who is visiting Pakistan for the first time. “We engaged on each other’s concerns and interests in an open manner. We agreed to work together to find common ground and narrow differences,” Mr. Jaishankar said on Tuesday, after the talks.

The two sides also discussed the agenda for the SAARC summit, with a focus on improving trade and travel links across the region, ahead of the summit which will be hosted in Pakistan in 2016, which PM Modi is expected to attend. “India would like to work with Pakistan to help SAARC achieve its potential,” Mr. Jaishankar added.

The Foreign secretary visited Islamabad on the penultimate stop of his “SAARC yatra”, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced he was sending him on, on the back of his “SAARC cricket diplomacy” initiative of speaking to other SAARC leaders before the World Cup began. Mr. Jaishankar has already visited Thimphu and Dhaka, and would fly to Kabul on Wednesday.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 8:57:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-pakistan-pick-up-talks-thread/article6956053.ece

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