Sushma Swaraj will travel to Pakistan on December 8 and 9 in the first visit by an Indian foreign minister to the neighbouring country since 2012, the government confirmed a day before her departure on Monday.
Swaraj will meet Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif and her counterpart Sartaj Aziz during her trip to Islamabad to attend a regional conference on Afghanistan. But both countries struggled to agree on a framework to continue the process of re-engagement set in motion by the two national security advisers in their ice-breaker meeting in Bangkok on Sunday.
Sources said a consensus was still elusive on how to take the stalled dialogue process forward, though Pakistan on its part succeeded in getting the Kashmir issue covered under the NSA-level talks and the foreign secretaries included in the meeting.
EAM @SushmaSwaraj to lead Indian delegation for Heart of Asia 5th Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan on December 9 in Islamabad— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) December 7, 2015
In India, the Opposition has already charged the government with a departure from its stated position. “It’s a grand betrayal. It’s a betrayal of everything that this government has ostensibly, publicly espoused,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
Expectations are high in Islamabad that the visit will lead to steps that may result in the resumption of the composite dialogue between the two countries. “It is too early to say whether this will lead to improvement of relations between the two countries but finally some sort of beginning has been made,” political analyst Zafar Hilaly said.
Hilaly said the Indian side insisted on progress on issues related to terrorism and Pakistan had little to show on that. “This will be at the centre of any discussions that the two sides will have in the coming phases,” he said.
Analyst Mosharraf Zaidi said the NSA-level meeting went off well and that was why Swaraj announced plans to visit Islamabad. “We can assume that this round of talks has the blessings of the military,” Zaidi said.
“Swaraj would meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tomorrow,” Aziz said on Monday. “This is a good beginning. The deadlock that was present has to some extent been removed.”
Aziz said various matters related to the resumption of the composite dialogue process would be discussed during talks with the Indian minister.
Foreign secretary S Jaishankar, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Gopal Baglay and external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup will be part of Swaraj’s delegation.