Pakistan invites Swaraj for Afghan meet in December

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 10, 2015 01:19 IST
India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj at the Indo-Africa summit in New Delhi last month. (Sanjeev Verma/HT)

Opening a possible window of opportunity for re-engagement between the neighbours, Pakistan has invited India’s external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to attend a regional conference on Afghanistan in Islamabad on December 7 and 8.

“We have received an invite. But we are yet to take a decision on it,” said an Indian government official.

A total of 14 countries are taking part in the conference, including Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. The grouping, which forms a part of the Istanbul Process that began in 2011, brings together Afghanistan, its neighbours and regional powers to discuss various issues related to Afghanistan.

But the invite to Pakistan is a tricky one for Swaraj as it would be against diplomatic niceties for her to attend the event without a one-on-one meeting with her Pakistani counterpart.

However, any meeting between the foreign ministers, Delhi has long insisted, cannot take place before the national security advisers of the two neighbours meet. This had been agreed upon by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Russian in July this year. But then, New Delhi has the option of sending officials to attend the meet in Islamabad.

Pakistan had sought a meeting between the two foreign ministers in New York in September, but India stuck to the line of two national security advisers meeting to discuss the issue of terrorism keeping in line with the understanding at Ufa in July.

The ties between the neighbours have remained frosty as both sides try hard to bridge a trust deficit.

Pakistan refusing to stay away from engaging the Hurriyat conference has become a sore point in the ties which had resulted in the cancellation of two senior level engagements, the meeting between the two foreign secretaries and national security advisers, since the NDA government came to power.

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