Indian PM sending foreign secretary to Pakistan in thawing of ties
NEW DELHI (REUTERS) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is sending Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyan Jaishankar to Pakistan as part of a regional tour, the first top-ranking visit since Modi broke off talks last year over the disputed region of Kashmir
The sign of a thaw in ties comes weeks after a visit to India by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The United States has long privately encouraged dialogue between India and Pakistan hoping that better ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours could lead to cooperation in other areas such as Afghanistan.
Indian foreign ministry said on Friday (February 13) the diplomat’s visit to Pakistan is part of visit to all SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nations.
“The foreign secretary will visit all SAARC countries including Pakistan,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin in New Delhi.
However, he did not divulge the dates of the visit.
Modi called his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, early on Friday to wish his country luck in the World Cup cricket tournament beginning this weekend and to tell him that Jaishankar will soon visit Islamabad as well as other regional capitals.
“Prime Minister’s interaction today with those other South Asian leaders from the SAARC was in pursuit of this cricket as a metaphor for connectivity between our people. In this context, he did contact, as he has himself said, the President of Sri Lanka, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, the President of Afghanistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan,” added Akbaruddin.
In a Twitter post Modi had called the leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, besides Pakistan to wish them luck in the cricket tournament being held in Australia.
India plays Pakistan in their opening game on Sunday.
The Indian government last year abruptly called off talks between the foreign secretaries, incensed that Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi had hosted Kashmiri separatists in the run-up to those talks.
India considers the whole of Kashmir as an integral part of the country and the decision by Modi’s government to pull the plug on talks with Pakistan represented a stiffening of India’s stand on the 68-year-old dispute over the territory.
Pakistan criticised the decision to cancel the talks and there have since been calls, including from within India, that the two countries must remain engaged.
Sharif told Modi that he welcomed the proposed visit of the Indian envoy to Pakistan to discuss all issues of common interest, the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement.
The neighbours have fought two wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947 and ties remain difficult since a 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based gunmen.
India wants speedy trials of those suspected to have orchestrated the attacks. Pakistan says it is doing all it can.
NATURAL WITH ENGLISH SPEECH