India and Pakistan are expected to pick up the threads from previous rounds of talks and focus on outstanding issues close to resolution, such as the Sir Creek border dispute, as they work on getting their new comprehensive dialogue process rolling.
Announcing the agreement on the new dialogue format after her meeting with Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad on Wednesday, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said the two foreign secretaries will decide the schedule and modalities for the talks.
A date for the meeting is yet to be set but officials in both countries said on Thursday they expected the interaction to be held soon so that the top diplomats could sort out the nitty-gritty of future engagements.
Sources in New Delhi said the Indian side would also keep a close watch on Pakistan delivering on its assurance about bringing the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice. The glacial pace of the trial and the bail for the prime accused, Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, has been a major roadblock for resuming dialogue.
The sources said India considers this a “domestic imperative” for the Narendra Modi government to build on the dialogue process.
Another area of focus will be issues that need “one last push” as considerable work was done on them in the past, such as the Siachen and Sir Creek issues and the grant of Most Favoured Nation-status to India. In the past, officials from both sides have said a solution to these issues was “doable”.
Sources in Islamabad said the two sides had already done a lot of work under the composite dialogue and resumed dialogue processes and the new initiative would build on this.
“It is now more a question of scheduling the various segments under the new process as the interlocutors who will handle the different components are already known,” a source said.
An Indian official who didn’t want to be named said: “We are hopeful of a new beginning. But we also realise this relationship is prone to accidents.”