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Sushma Swaraj to visit Pakistan, meet Sharif

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New Delhi/Islamabad: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will travel to Pakistan for a regional security conference on Tuesday and also meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif there.

Sushma Swaraj will lead the Indian delegation for Heart of Asia 5th Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan on December 9 in Islamabad, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a tweet.

In Islamabad, the prime minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said he was looking forward to meeting Sushma Swaraj.

“Talks are the only solution,” the Daily Pakistan quoted Aziz as saying.

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Sushma Swaraj will arrive in Islamabad on Wednesday and Tuesday, respectively, to attend the two-day summit.

The Heart of Asia conference engages “heart of Asia” countries in sincere and result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

Aziz said there have been breakthroughs in dialogue with Afghanistan and India and the Pakistani relationship with the two countries would now be further strengthened.

Matters of the conflict between Pakistan and India would be discussed in the meeting and a road map would be devised to resume the composite bilateral dialogue during the visit, he said.

Sushma Swaraj’s visit comes after the NSAs of India and Pakistan met in Bangkok on Sunday and “agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement”.

A joint statement issued after the Bangkok meeting said Ajit Doval of India and Naseer Khan Janjua of Pakistan held discussions “in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere”.

“Discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC (Line of Control)”, the statement said.

Sunday’s meeting in Bangkok followed the impromptu meeting of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan in Paris on the sidelines of the Conference of Parties (CoP) 21 climate summit on November 30.

This was the first meeting between Modi and Sharif since they met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Russia’s Ufa in July this year.

Sushma Swaraj’s will be the first ministerial-level visit from India to Pakistan since the visit of her predecessor S.M. Krishna in 2012.

The Congress, referring to the NSAs meet, sought to know what made the government effect a “fundamental departure” from the position conveyed to parliament with regard to engagement with Islamabad and asked it to take parliament into confidence.

“The prime minister and the government should inform the house about the developments and reasons which have made the government make a fundamental departure from the position as was conveyed to this house in the last session with regard to India’s engagement with Pakistan,” party leader Anand Sharma said in the Rajya Sabha during Zero Hour.

On Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan, he said it was “disrespect of parliament as parliament is not taken into confidence”.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi then said a statement would be made by the foreign minister on December 10.

Meanwhile, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah sought to know if India was “made to talk Kashmir” as there was no mention of ‘K’ word when the two prime ministers had met at Ufa.(IANS)

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India-Pakistan peace process: US President Donald Trump may get involved, says US Representative to UN Nikki Haley

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United Nations, April 4, 2017: The US is concerned about the state of India-Pakistan relations and President Donald Trump himself may get involved in a peace process between the two South Asian antagonists, Nikki Haley, the US Permanent Representative to the UN said on Monday.

“This administration is concerned about the relationship between India and Pakistan and very much wants to see how we de-escalate any sort of conflict going forward,” Haley, who holds a cabinet rank in the Trump administration, said.

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“I would expect that the administration going to be in talks and try and find its place to be part of that (process).”

She added, “And also wouldn’t be surprised if the President participates as well.”

India has opposed external involvement in bilateral issues with Pakistan.

During his campaign in 2016, Trump had offered to mediate between India and Pakistan, but was careful to add that it was only if the two nations wanted him to.

In an interview to The Hindustan Times he said that he “would be honoured” to be a moderator. “I think if they wanted me to, I would love to be the mediator or arbitrator.”

Haley was answering a question from a reporter at her news conference on assuming the presidency of the Security Council for the month of April.

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The reporter pointed out that India does not want an interlocutor for talks with Pakistan, while Islamabad wanted the US or another country to facilitate talks between them and asked if the US would get the leaders of the two countries to talk.

With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson keeping a low public profile and generally avoiding the media, Haley is emerging as the public face of US diplomacy making her presence felt in the media aided by her cabinet status.

Her statement about India-Pakistan relations, therefore, assume importance and it is the first high-level Trump administration statement on India’s relations with Pakistan.

While it is not clear what steps the US could take, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to meet Trump in Washington in May when the two could discuss it.

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Former President Barack Obama also had said during his 2008 campaign that the US should mediate the Kashmir dispute. The offer met with strong opposition in India and he did not actively follow it up when he became President.

“We don’t think we should wait until something happens” Haley said. “We very much think we should be pro-active in what we are seeing, tensions rise and conflicts seem to bubble up and so want to see if we can be a part of that.”

“So, that will be something you will see, that is something that members of the National Security Council participate in,” she said. (IANS)