The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet in mid-January to discuss ways to take forward the new bilateral dialogue process, Pakistan’s foreign policy chief has said in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Lahore.
Sartaj Aziz, advisor to the Pakistani Prime Minister on foreign affairs, said Modi and Nawaz Sharif had agreed during their meeting in Lahore on Friday that the foreign secretaries will meet in Islamabad in the middle of January to finalise the schedule and modalities for the comprehensive dialogue.
Though Aziz did not give any dates for the meeting, sources in New Delhi said the top diplomats are expected to hold talks during January 14-15.
Pakistan’s major political parties have welcomed Modi’s “goodwill visit”, Aziz told the Pakistani media. There was consensus among political parties, including the opposition Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, on peace and enhanced people-to-people contacts between the two sides, he said.
Modi sprang a surprise by announcing on Friday that he would go to Lahore for a meeting with Sharif while returning home from a brief visit to Afghanistan – the latest in a string of high-level contacts between the two neighbours. He became the first Indian prime minister to visit Pakistan in 11 years.
The visit was preceded by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s trip to Islamabad during December 8-9 to attend the Heart of Asia Summit on Afghanistan and to hold talks with Aziz, and a secret meeting between the national security advisers in Bangkok on December 6.
Following the talks between Swaraj and Aziz, the two sides announced on December 9 that they would launch the comprehensive dialogue process, which will include all eight components of the erstwhile composite dialogue and some new issues such as religious tourism and humanitarian issue.
Aziz acknowledged that an informal interaction between the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers in Paris on November 30 and the meeting of the national security advisers in Bangkok had pushed the process forward.