Foreign secretary Jaishankar to go on Saarc Yatra in March

  • Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 18, 2015 00:12 IST

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar will begin a 'yatra' of Saarc countries next month with a visit to Bhutan, followed by Bangladesh or Nepal. He will end his tour with a trip to India's western neighbours, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

South Block sources said New Delhi has already asked Saarc countries for convenient dates for Jaishankar's proposed visit.

After his first set of Saarc visits, Jaishankar will accompany Modi on a bilateral visit to Mauritius, Maldives and Sri Lanka starting March 12.

"He will separately visit Sri Lanka and Maldives after the PM's tour," said an official.

"By tradition, a new foreign secretary makes the first visit to Bhutan. But Jaishankar was tasked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to accompany external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on a four-day visit to China as soon as he took over last month," said a senior South Block official.

While the Pakistan agenda of Jaishankar's visit is still a work in progress, the Saarc context of the dialogue enables India to go ahead with it, notwithstanding the irritant of Pakistan talking to Kashmiri separatists, which led to the cancellation of foreign-secretary level talks last August.

However, restoring peace and tranquility on the India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir will be a priority for Jaishankar as New Delhi is keen to strengthen the 2003 ceasefire agreement and also wants para-military forces on both sides to exercise restraint.

Jaishankar, who was previously the ambassador to the US, was appointed foreign secretary on January 28.

He was scheduled to fly to Washington on Tuesday night to bring his family back.

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