Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj is set for talks with her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz as well as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan in Islamabad on Wednesday.
This will be the third bilateral engagement at the top level in less than 10 days following an impromptu and brief meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sharif in Paris on November 30. Sharif later told Pakistani media that “doors of dialogue should open”.
The meeting followed talks between national security advisers of both nations in Bangkok on Sunday, three months after cancelling a similar engagement.
“I have come with the message that ties between the two countries should be good and move forward,” Swaraj said on Tuesday after reaching the Pakistani capital for the ‘Heart of Asia’ meet on Afghanistan.
“I will meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and my counterpart Sartaj Aziz. Efforts will be on to improve relations.”
Her visit is also seen as the first significant India-Pakistan engagement since Modi and Sharif met in the Russian city of Ufa in July.
The Pakistani prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, who hosted a banquet for his counterpart on Tuesday night, expected a positive outcome from the meeting.
“My expectations are good and positive,” Aziz said. “My message is also that we should take our engagement forward and improve ties.”
Although the main purpose of the visit is the “Heart of Asia” conference, Swaraj is expected to bring more topics to the table.
“What seemed impossible just weeks ago has turned into a remarkable, almost unprecedented, round of diplomacy at the very highest levels,” the Dawn newspaper said in an editorial.
Swaraj’s visit — the first by an Indian foreign minister to Pakistan since 2012 — comes on a positive note as the national security advisers had a “constructive” engagement during the Bangkok talks with a host of niggling issues on the table, including Jammu and Kashmir.
A joint statement issued in Bangkok said: “Discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC (Line of Control that divides the two counties).”
Earlier on Tuesday, Sharif held crucial meetings with Pakistan’s powerful military leadership to frame a strategy for talks with Swaraj and the conference on Afghanistan.
The meetings signalled the Pakistani military’s indisputable position as far as the country’s policy towards India was concerned.
Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif called on Sharif at the PM House in Islamabad. A brief official statement said the two leaders had discussed “issues of national and regional security” and reviewed progress in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the ongoing military offensive against militants.
The Prime Minister chaired a meeting that was attended by the army chief, Aziz, national security adviser Nasir Khan Janjua — a retired general who replaced Aziz in October — and several top-ranking ministers and diplomats.
Janjua briefed the meeting about the progress made in Bangkok, an official statement said.
Swaraj is expected to return to India on Wednesday evening.
(with agency inputs)