Pakistan’s national security adviser Sartaj Aziz will visit India for talks with his counterpart on August 23 as the two neighbours look to resume dialogue against the backdrop of simmering tensions over a series of militant attacks and border clashes.
India had proposed August 23-24 for the meeting between Ajit Doval and Aziz in New Delhi in line with an agreement between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif in Russia in July that the NSAs would hold talks to discuss all issues related to terrorism.
But a militant strike on a police station in Gurdaspur and a BSF convoy in Udhampur cast a shadow on the process of re-engagement between the neighbours.
Uncertainty mounted after Pakistan summoned the Indian envoy on Tuesday for alleged ceasefire violations amid swirling speculation that the Pakistani army was heaping pressure on the government not to go ahead with talks.
“I can confirm I will be going to India on August 23,” Aziz, who doubles as Sharif’s adviser on foreign affairs, told a news conference.
He added his visit was not a breakthrough in terms of the composite dialogue but an ice-breaker on some issues. “Let’s hope it will lead to further more comprehensive dialogue on the other issues between the two countries,” he said.
Despite the attacks that New Delhi blamed on Pakistani militants, the Indian government did not call off the meeting unlike last year when it cancelled planned talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries after the Pakistani high commissioner met Kashmiri separatists.
New Delhi is now following a two-pronged strategy in its engagement with Pakistan: It has vowed to give a “befitting response” to any cross-border strike but has not slammed the door on talks.
Pakistan wants India’s alleged involvement in fomenting unrest in Balochistan, the financial hub of Karachi and tribal areas to be part of the talks. India, on the other hand, is expected to raise the spike in militant violence blamed on Pakistan-based terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, including the attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur.
NSA talks to continue despite attacks
Apart from the recent attacks, Doval is also expected to raise concerns over the slow pace of the 2008 terror attacks trial and bail for Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the military commander responsible for coordinating the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.Last week, Aziz said Pakistan was preparing the agenda for talks.
He had said Pakistan wanted a constructive, sustained, unconditional and result-oriented dialogue with India on all issues of mutual concern, including the core issue of Kashmir.
The talks between the NSAs come amid tensions on the Line of Control. The two countries also traded charges recently over a drone that Pakistan alleged was being used by India for aerial photography near the LoC, an accusation dismissed by New Delhi.
Read:India, Pak prepare terror dossiers ahead of NSA-level talks