New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who arrived here late last night after a two-day visit to Pakistan, will make a statement in Parliament on Thursday on the proposed ''composite dialogue'' between the two nations and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the neighbouring state next year.
''EAM Sushma Swaraj will make a statement about the India-Pakistan dialogue at the Parliament today", Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told the media.
In a breakthrough in ties, India and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed to hold a “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue” on all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, with their foreign secretaries to draw up the schedule of the talks.
The announcement was made by EAM Sushma Swaraj after holding talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz.
Sushma, who addressed a joint press conference with Aziz, said she had held “very good talks” with the Pakistani side. “Both sides have decided to begin composite dialogue. It will have all the pillars of the composite dialogue and some other aspects. The foreign secretaries of both sides are to draw up the schedule and at what level the talks are to be held,” Sushma said.
“India and Pakistan are ready for dialogue on all issues,” she said.
Both sides issued a brief joint statement, which said that Sushma and Aziz “condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it.” Both noted the “successful talks” between their National Security Advisors in Bangkok on Sunday and agreed that the NSAs “will continue to address all issues related to terrorism”. Pakistan also assured India “of the steps being taken to expedite early conclusion of the Mumbai trial”.
Both sides agreed to a “Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue and directed their foreign secretaries to work out the modalities and the schedule of the meetings under the Dialogue, including Peace and Security, CBMs, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, Economic and Commercial Cooperation, Counter-Terrorism, Narcotics Control, Humanitarian Issues, People to People Exchanges and Religious Tourism.”
The Ufa joint statement, issued after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharif, had not contained a reference to Jammu and Kashmir, but only said both sides will talk on all outstanding issues.
However, the bilateral cricketing ties appear to be still stuck. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shahryar Khan said the board was informed of the refusal to participate in the bilateral series by the Indian side.
He said he had been hopeful that Sushma’s visit would help mend matters, “but it did not happen”.
In another positive development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to attend the Saarc Summit being hosted by Islamabad next year, Sushma announced to journalists in Islamabad earlier.
The ball was set rolling for the warming of ties by the unannounced brief meeting between Modi and Sharif in Paris on December 1 on the sidelines of the climate change summit. That meeting in turn led to another surprise meeting between their National Security Advisors and Foreign Secretaries in Bangkok on Sunday.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the last Indian Prime Minister to visit Pakistan when he attended the 2004 SAARC summit and also held talks with then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh had been keen to visit Pakistan, but a visit did not fructify due to the tense relations between the two sides because of rising incidents of border firings.
In her address at the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process on Afghanistan, Sushma pushed strongly for transit connectivity for India to Afghanistan through Pakistan and appealed that both India and Pakistan “display the maturity” to do business with each other and strengthen regional bonds.
Sushma said that India would be hosting the next Heart of Asia conference next year.
She said that India is willing to receive Afghan trucks on its land border with Pakistan, at Attari, and create the necessary facilities for Afghan products there. “We have also formally indicated our willingness to join the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement,” she said.
Pakistan has been unwilling to allow India to join the Afghan-Pakistan transit agreement, which would in effect provide New Delhi the shortest land access to Kabul and beyond to Central Asia. With Pakistan stymieing Indian efforts to join the transit agreement, India is now pushing to complete developing the Chabahar port in Iran for connectivity to Afghanistan and beyond.
“The ‘Heart’ of Asia cannot function if arteries are clogged. Nothing can benefit Afghanistan more immediately than full and direct overland access to India’s markets,” she said.
On Pakistan, she said: “It is time that we display the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and cooperation. The entire world is waiting and rooting for a change. Let us not disappoint them.” Pakistan has also not granted India Most Favoured Nation status, though India has done so.
Sounding a reassuring note, she said: “For its part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with. But today, let us at least resolve to help Afghanistan – in the best traditions of good neighbourliness – through more effective transit arrangements.”
“It is also the collective duty of all of us to ensure that the forces of terrorism and extremism do not find sanctuaries and safe havens in any name, form or manifestation. We, in Afghanistan’s proximity, have a particular responsibility in this regard,” in tacit reference to Pakistan.
The breakthrough in bilateral ties comes after the bitterness of the cancelled National Security Advisor-level talks in Delhi in September when both sides blamed each other for the talks being called off.
The positive developments of the Ufa talks between Modi and Sharif in July fizzled out following the frequent violations of the ceasefire agreement and with Pakistan raking up the Kashmir issue at international fora and hobnobbing with Kashmiri separatists.