NEW DELHI - India’s foreign minister is visiting Pakistan for a regional conference on Afghanistan and talks with Pakistani leaders. Her visit to Islamabad follows high-level talks in Bangkok between the two rivals.
India’s confirmation that Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj will travel to Islamabad Tuesday to attend the “Heart of Asia” conference came a day after the two countries launched efforts to resume a peace dialogue.
Swaraj’s visit will be the first by an Indian foreign minister to Pakistan in three years, and is significant because it marks a breakthrough in ties between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Pakistani advisor on foreign policy, Sartaz Aziz confirmed that Swaraj will meet him and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Afghanistan conference.
Analysts say a four-hour meeting in Bangkok on Sunday between top security officials of the two countries has broken an impasse in ties.
Two earlier attempts to hold a dialogue had collapsed. The most recent was in August, when talks were canceled following a bitter disagreement on the agenda and due to India’s vociferous objections to a planned meeting between Pakistani officials and Kashmiri separatists.
South Asia expert S.D. Muni at New Delhi’s Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses, says both sides have climbed down from their stands.
“India has softened its position, on the other side Pakistan has softened its position. The red lines drawn between both the sides are being thinned down and that facilitated what happened in Bangkok,” said Muni.
Analysts say in Bangkok, India agreed to include Kashmir in the agenda, while holding talks in a third country ensured that a meeting between Pakistani officials and Kashmiri separatists did not become a bone of contention.
The talks covered peace and security, Kashmir and terrorism. A joint statement after the four-hour meeting said the two sides will carry forward the “constructive engagement.”
In Islamabad, Sartaz Aziz told reporters they will have to wait to see how the dialogue proceeds, but sounded a note of optimism.
He said at least it is a good beginning and the deadlock in negotiations is removed to some extent and hopefully this process will move forward.
The thaw in ties was set off by a meeting between the Indian and Pakistani prime ministers on the sidelines of the climate summit in Paris last week.