Foreign secy Vijay Gokhale may meet Pakistan counterpart Tehmina Janjua in Kabul this week
India’s foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale may meet his Pakistan counterpart Tehmina Janjua on the sidelines of a multilateral conference on Afghanistan in Kabul this week, officials in the ministry of external affairs said.
This meeting, if it materialises, would the first such contact between India and Pakistan since National Security Adviser Ajit Doval met his Pakistan counterpart on December 26, 2017 in Bangkok, a meeting the external affairs ministry acknowledged almost two weeks later.
It also comes in the wake of talks between Janjua and US Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for South and Central Asia Lisa Curtis in Islamabad on Monday.
Gokhale, who leaves for Kabul on Tuesday,will attend the Kabul conference in which 25 countries are participating the next day.
Incidently, India will appoint a new ambassador to Afghanistan soon, officials said. Vinay Kumar, who is currently joint secretary (South) in the external affairs ministry, has been picked for the post, these officials said.
Though it might not be a structured meeting, the very fact that the seniormost foreign ministry officials from the two countries could meet is significant in view of the frosty ties between the neighbours.
The terror attack on Pathankot airbase in January 2016, for which India blamed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, scuppered prospects of a dialogue process that two sides had discussed in December 2015. However, the national security advisers of the countries have kept their channels of communication open. The “Kabul Process” meeting Gokhale is attending is an Afghan-government-led initiative with stakeholders to find lasting peace in the war-torn country, including the contours of engaging with Taliban outfits. This is the second such meeting of the Kabul Process.
“We support the National Unity Government in its efforts to find lasting peace in that country and India is part of the both regional and international initiatives to maintain peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said an Indian official in Delhi. Indian officials hope the conference would help countries also realise “the support terrorist groups” are getting from the neighbourhood that keeps “both Afghanistan and the region” unstable, in a reference to Pakistan.