India and Pakistan are likely to revisit their approach to bilateral engagement as foreign secretary Jaishankar arrives in Islamabad on March 3 as part of his ‘Saarc yatra’.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif ahead of India-Pakistan cricket match earlier this month had shown signs of thaw between the two sides, but whether this cricket diplomacy would lead to any concrete progress would hinge on how Islamabad responds to New Delhi’s concerns during the foreign secretary’s visit.
However, top South Block sources downplayed it saying that Jaishankar was on a “Saarc yatra and not on a Pak yatra”.
The foreign secretary will embark on his Saarc yatra from Bhutan on March 1, a move that is set to strengthen and reinforce Modi government’s focus on neighbourhood engagement.
While the bilateral issue of de-escalation along the border was apparently not on the official agenda of Jaishankar’s visit, discussions on this issue cannot be ruled out when he meets his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Chaudhury.
Sources pointed out that Pakistan was going to be the next chair of the 8-member Saarc. It would be important from Pakistan’s point of view to have good relations with India. Asked if the visit would lead to the bilateral dialogue being put back on track, a top official quipped, “Frankly, I do not know.”
Sources said bilateral agenda-- “state of our ties with each other”- will be part of the discussions when foreign secretary visit Saarc countries. The first leg of the visit will include Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, sources said there was a greater candour in India’s dealing with its biggest neighbour — China. India is open to seeking more investment from China and strengthen economic ties as both sides work for an early resolution to a complex boundary dispute.