Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lahore stopover may have made headlines across the globe but closer home, officials on both sides of the border want expectations lowered as the two countries get ready to talk.
It would not be fair to expect much from the talks scheduled in January between the two foreign secretaries, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Saturday.
“…initially focus would be on reduction of tension and maintenance of calm on the Line of Control to provide relief to the people living across Line of Control,” he told Radio Pakistan, reflecting the thinking of foreign policy mandarins of the two countries.
India and Pakistan ties are closely watched and any movement generates a lot of interest, which can prove counterproductive as had happened in the past.
To avoid such accidents, the two countries were looking at a “low-key, off-camera” approach to bridge the trust deficit, an Indian official said on condition of anonymity.
Foreign secretary S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chowdhury are likely to meet in Islamabad on January 15 to set the ball rolling for the comprehensive bilateral dialogue.
Putting the latest developments in perspective, sources in Delhi said the events were part of a process to bring the ties on an even keel so that substantive discussions can take place.
Modi’s Christmas Day visit to Pakistan, first by an Indian prime minister in 11 years, capped a string of bilateral engagements that saw external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visit the neighbouring country after the two national security advisers met in Bangkok earlier this month. It was during Swaraj’s visit that the two countries agreed to a comprehensive dialogue on security, Jammu and Kashmir, trade and other bilateral issues. It would not be fair to expect instant resolution of all issues, said Aziz, the cancellation of whose visit to India in August after a bitter buildup dealt a blow to bilateral ties.
In the meeting between the two prime ministers in Lahore, he said, it was decided that the foreign secretaries would meet to decide the details of the dialogue process.