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Heart of Asia meet: Bilateral thaw between India and Pakistan unlikely

india Updated: Nov 29, 2016 19:27 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Nawaz Sharif

In this file photo, Pakistani prime minister's adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz addresses a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP)

When it comes to the India--Pakistan relationship, it is said that nothing happens unless it has happened. However, the ties have had its own share of surprises in terms of talks taking place totally against the run of the play.

Though Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz is attending the ministerial meeting of the Heart of Asia grouping, sources say that it is unlikely he would hold a bilateral meeting. And by all means, springing a talk surprise wouldn’t be easy.

Pakistan officials said India as the host country should make the request for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines. That in effect left no side making a request for a bilateral meeting so far. There are no indications as yet of the stance changing in the coming days.

The last two Heart of Asia meets -- December 2015 in Islamabad and April 2016 in New Delhi -- had foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of both India and Pakistan holding discussions on the sidelines.

The countries in the grouping include Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, Turkey and Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistan counterpart Sartaj Aziz had agreed on a road-map for talks this December. But an attack on the Pathankot airbase in January led to the postponement of the talks between the two foreign secretaries.

However, the foreign secretaries did meet during the April 2016 conference, at least keeping the channels of communication open. But ties between the neighbours have nosedived in recent times.

For the government approaching Pakistan for talks at this time is a risky business for various reasons. The ceasefire violations and terrorist attacks continue from across the border. The government has no reasons go back on this what oft-repeated line of no talks without Pakistan stopping terrorism.