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India, Pakistan commence comprehensive bilateral dialogue

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Islamabad: India and Pakistan on Wednesday commenced a comprehensive bilateral dialogue between the two south Asian neighbours in Islamabad.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Vikas Swarup, said that the foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet later.

The decision in this regard was taken on a day when Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed in the Pakistani capital that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Pakistan next year, the first such visit by the head of the Indian government in over a decade.

Modi will participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit, Sushma Swaraj told the media.

This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to Pakistan since Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the South Asian neighbour in January 2004 to attend that year’s Saarc summit.

Sushma Swaraj said she would accompany Modi during his visit, Geo TV reported.

The Indian minister is in Islamabad to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference on peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Sushma Swaraj’s is the first ministerial visit from India to Pakistan since the then external affairs minister S M Krishna went to Islamabad for official visit in 2012.

At the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit held in Ufa, Russia, in July, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited Modi to attend the Saarc summit in Islamabad next year, which Modi had accepted.

After the Ufa meeting, both prime ministers directed their foreign secretaries to initiate the process of renewing talks, including meetings between the national security advisors of the two countries.

However, NSA-level talks between India’s Ajit Doval and his then Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz scheduled in New Delhi in August were cancelled after the Pakistan high commissioner in New Delhi insisted on inviting Hurriyat leaders for pre-talks consultations before Aziz arrived.

Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan comes after a flurry of diplomatic engagements between the two South Asian neighbours in the past 10 days.

Modi and Sharif had an impromptu meeting on the sidelines of the Conference of Parties (CoP-21) Climate Summit in Paris on November 30.

Both leaders were seen warmly shaking hands at the summit venue as world leaders converged for the opening of the event.

The two leaders then sat on the same sofa and were seen engaging in an animated discussion.

Following this, on December 6, Doval and Pakistani NSA Naseer Khan Janjua held a meeting in Bangkok which was also attended by Foreign Secretaries S.Jaishanker and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two NSAs held discussions “in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere”.

According to the statement, the NSAs “were guided by the vision of the two leaders for a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia”.

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

“It was agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement,” said the statement.

The LoC divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

On Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj also met Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif and his Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of the Islamabad conference.

According to external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup, during the meeting with Sharif, Sushma Swaraj conveyed “India’s commitment to good neighbourly relations”.

After the meeting with Aziz, Swarup tweeted: “Building a cooperative relationship. EAM @SushmaSwaraj meets Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Mr Sartaj Aziz.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj extended India’s hand of friendship to Pakistan at the Heart of Asia Conference.

“It is time that we display the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and cooperation,” she said in her address at the conference.

“For its part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with,” she added.

Later, the Indian minister attended a lunch hosted by Sharif for delegates to the Heart of Asia Conference.

(With inputs from agencies)

Next Story

IOC Cancels Places for 2020 Tokyo Games from India after it Refused Visas to Pakistan

India has accused Pakistan of involvement in a suicide bombing in Kashmir last week that killed 40 paramilitary soldiers and has vowed to "isolate" its arch-rival neighbor over the attack.

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IOC, Olympic, India, tokyo games, pakistan
FILE - Shimaa Hashad of Egypt takes part in a pratice session with an air rifle at the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup at Dr. Karni Singh Shooting Range, in New Delhi, Feb. 20, 2019. VOA

The International Olympic Committee on Thursday canceled places for the 2020 Tokyo Games shooting competition to be awarded at an event in India after the host country refused to give visas to Pakistani shooters, the head of the sport’s governing body said.

India has accused Pakistan of involvement in a suicide bombing in Kashmir last week that killed 40 paramilitary soldiers and has vowed to “isolate” its arch-rival neighbor over the attack.

Sixteen qualifying places for the Tokyo Games were to be decided at the opening shooting World Cup event in New Delhi. But Vladimir Lisin, president of the ISSF world body, said these would now go to other qualifying events.

“The International Olympic Committee informed us this World Cup will not be included in the competitions for Olympic quotas,” Lisin, himself an IOC executive member, told the tournament opening ceremony late Thursday.

“The quotas will be distributed at another World Cup. No one can be discriminated against and we have to follow the IOC decision as part of the IOC family,” he added.

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FILE – Indian paramilitary soldiers stand by the wreckage of a bus after an explosion in Pampore, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

The IOC said it was deliberating on the controversy and would soon announce a decision.

Over 500 shooters are taking part in the Indian event, for which competition starts Saturday.

Pakistan, which has denied any role in the Kashmir attack, says two shooters and a coach were denied visas to attend the contest.

Lisin said the International Shooting Sport Federation and the Indian organizing committee had done everything possible to get the shooters to the contest.

But National Rifle Association of India president Raninder Singh said he could not go against the Indian government’s decision.

Singh also insisted no final decision on the Olympic places had been taken.

“Nothing is canceled as of now. The status as of now is we don’t know,” Singh told reporters. “There are meetings that are going on where the position is being assessed by the IOC and the government.”

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Amid widespread anger over last week’s Kashmir attack, some calls have also been made for India’s cricket team to boycott its scheduled World Cup game against Pakistan in England later this year.

Media reports said Indian cricket’s governing body, the BCCI, had prepared a letter calling for Pakistan to be banned from the cricket World Cup. (VOA)