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India, Pakistan resume dialogue in Bangkok

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New Delhi: India and Pakistan on Sunday quietly resumed their stalled dialogue in Bangkok, with their National Security Advisors discussing an array of contentious bilateral issues and promising to “carry forward the constructive engagement”.

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

Foreign secretaries S. Jaishanker of India and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry of Pakistan took part in the meeting.

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

Doval and Janjua “were guided by the vision of the two leaders for a peaceful, stable and prosperous South Asia. It was agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement”, it said.

Official pictures showed Doval and Janjua shaking hands in a warm atmosphere at the venue.

The Sunday meeting followed the 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.

After a long gap, Modi and Sharif had a brief but warm chat as they bumped into each other in Paris.

This was the first meeting between them since they met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting in Ufa, Russia, in July this year.

After the Ufa meet, they directed their foreign secretaries to initiate the process of renewal of bilateral talks, including meetings between their national security advisers.

But talks between Doval and his then Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz scheduled in New Delhi in August were axed after the Pakistan envoy here insisted on inviting Hurriyat leaders for a reception in honor of Aziz.

The Bangkok meeting came ahead of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit this week to Pakistan for the Heart of Asia conference – a multilateral engagement on Afghanistan.

Post Ufa, firing and shelling across the LoC and the international border that split Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan dramatically increased, causing serious strains in bilateral ties.

The border incidents have since scaled down, as dramatically, leading to the Bangkok meet.

While India considers Pakistan-backed terrorism as a key issue in the normalization of bilateral relations, Islamabad wants the focus on Jammu and Kashmir, whose ownership it contends.

After Ufa, the Pakistani military brass had stated that all further dialogue with India would have to cover the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, where a separatist campaign since 1989 has claimed thousands of lives.

The Doval-Janjua meeting received a mixed reaction in India, with one Congress leader questioning the Modi government’s apparent U-turn vis-a-vis Pakistan.

Manish Tewari called it a “grand betrayal” by the government “and a reflection of the flip flop on its Pakistan policy”.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said it was good to see India and Pakistan resume the dialogue process.

“Perhaps this is the way quiet progress will be made away from each other’s capitals and the glare of media-driven expectations.

“Now the challenge is to make sure the Indo-Pakistan dialogue process is ring-fenced from incidents designed specifically to derail it.”

(IANS)

(Photo: www.huffingtonpost.in)

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India-Pakistan bilateral talks are now ‘in Pakistan’s court’: India

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New Delhi: In the aftermath of the Pathankot terrorist attack, India on Thursday said that the issue of continuation of resumed bilateral talks was now in Pakistan’s court.

“As far as we are concerned, the ball is in Pakistan’s court. The immediate issue is Pakistan’s response to the terrorist attack and the actionable intelligence provided to it,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in a media briefing.

“The terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base has once again put renewed focus on the challenge posed by cross-border terrorism,” he said.

Seven security personnel were killed in the attack on the Pathankot Air Force Station by six terrorists. All six terrorists — suspected to be from Pakistan — were killed by security forces.

Stating that the Indian government’s Pakistan policy was clear and consistent, Swarup said India wanted friendly relations with all its neighbors, including Pakistan.

“We have extended our hand of friendship to Pakistan but we will not countenance cross-border terrorist attacks,” he said.

According to the spokesman, the decision to start a comprehensive bilateral dialogue followed after a “constructive” meeting between the national security advisors of the two countries in Bangkok on December 6 “in which the central concerns of terrorism, peace and security, and tranquillity along the Line of Control were discussed”.

“Our prime minister (Narendra Modi) had a conversation with the prime minister of Pakistan (Nawaz Sharif). During that conversation, our prime minister very strongly urged the prime minister of Pakistan to take action,” Swarup said.

“Actionable intelligence with regard to the terrorist attack and the links with the perpetrators in Pakistan have been provided to the Pakistani side. The Pakistani prime minister promised prompt and decisive action. We now await that prompt and decisive action.”

There was a thaw in India-Pakistan relations following a seemingly impromptu meeting between Modi and Shartif on November 30 on the sidelines of the Paris climate summit.

On December 6, Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Naseer Khan Janjua met in Bangkok.

Two days later, Sushma Swaraj landed in Islamabad to attend the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan.

On December 9, Sushma Swaraj announced that Modi would visit Islamabad in 2016 to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

India and Pakistan have since agreed to start a comprehensive bilateral dialogue.

It was when the stage was being set for the foreign secretaries to meet this month in Islamabad that the terrorists mounted the attack on the IAF base at Pathankot. (IANS)(Photo: The Week)

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India, Pakistan vow to continue peace process

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Lahore/Kabul/New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to New Delhi on Friday from Kabul with a dramatic surprise stopover in Lahore where he and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif vowed to pursue the derailed bilateral peace process.

During the stopover in Lahore, Modi and Sharif spent some 90 minutes at Sharif’s ancestral residence in Raiwind town, about 40 km from Lahore, and decided to continue the suspended dialogue between the two countries after months of border tension.

It was a telephone call from Modi from Kabul greeting Sharif on his birthday which triggered the dramatic journey — his first to Pakistan and the first by any Indian prime minister in 11 years.

Sharif had attended Modi’s oath taking in New Delhi in May 2014.

A Pakistani official said Modi also blessed the granddaughter of Sharif on her wedding. “Modi had no clue about the wedding,” he said.

The Indian leader, who sipped Kashmiri tea while meeting Sharif, also met the Pakistani leader’s mother.

Modi reportedly told Sharif that it was important for the leadership of the two countries to understand each other’s position. The Pakistani media said the two leaders had decided to take forward their bilateral relations for the benefit of South Asia.

Modi and Sharif agreed to promote people-to-people contacts and confidence building measures.

After returning home, Modi tweeted: “Spent a warm evening with Sharif family at their family home. Nawaz Sahab’s birthday & granddaughter’s marriage made it a double celebration”.

He said he was touched by Sharif’s “affection” towards former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and said he had recalled their interactions and “asked me to convey his regards to Atal ji”.

He also said he was “personally touched by Nawaz Sharif Sahab ‘s gesture of welcoming me at Lahore airport and coming to the airport when I left”.

Sharif and his brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were among the VIPs who received Modi at the Allama Iqbal International Airport as Modi landed in an Indian Air Force plane. The two leaders then took a helicopter to Raiwind.

Geo TV reported that the visit “was not that surprising” as the Lahore Air Traffic Control had been told about it on Thursday.

But few in India and Pakistan knew about the program, which came at a time when bilateral relations have shown definite improvement after months of tension and border clashes.

The Pakistan Air Force presented a guard of honor for Modi.

The Pakistan government welcomed the development with Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry describing it as a goodwill gesture on the part of the Indian prime minister.

Modi and Sharif had fleetingly met at the Paris Climate Summit on November 30, preparing the atmosphere for a resumption of the stalled bilateral dialogue.

Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, who accompanied Modi to Lahore, met his Pakistani counterpart in Bangkok earlier this month. This was followed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad.

The two foreign secretaries are set to meet in January, also in the Pakistani capital.

Hours before he left Kabul for Lahore, Modi addressed the Afghan parliament and blasted Pakistan – but without naming the country – for sponsoring terrorism in Afghanistan.

“Terror and violence cannot be the instrument to shape Afghanistan’s future or dictate the choices Afghans make,” Modi told Afghan MPs. Modi reached Kabul early on Friday after a two-day visit to Russia.

In an obvious reference to Pakistan, Modi said there were “some who did not want us to be here”.

“There were those who saw sinister designs in our presence here. There are others who were uneasy at the strength of our partnership. Some even tried to discourage us.”

At the same time, Modi said Pakistan must act like a bridge between South Asia and Afghanistan.

“All of us in the region – India, Pakistan, Iran and others – must unite, in trust and cooperation, behind this common purpose and in recognition of our common destiny.”

Ahead of his address, he and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani jointly inaugurated the Afghanistan’s new parliament building which was constructed with Indian assistance of $90 million.

After arriving in Kabul from Moscow early Friday morning, Modi and Ghani held delegation-level talks over breakfast.

The Indian prime minister also met Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah and former president Hamid Karzai.

Modi had left on Wednesday for a two-day visit to Russia for the annual summit-level meeting during which the two countries signed 16 agreements, including those related to defense and nuclear production. (IANS)