Breakthrough in Islamabad: India, Pakistan to start Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said that the dialogue will include peace and security and Jammu and Kashmir.

Breakthrough in Islamabad: India, Pakistan to start Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue
Sushma Swaraj shakes hand with Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad

Islamabad: Taking a major step forward in improving frosty bilateral ties, India and Pakistan on Wednesday decided to resume high-level bilateral talks and announced that the same would now be called 'Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue'.

Both nations earlier used to hold parleys as part of the 'Composite Dialogue'.

Briefing the press after meeting Pakistan's foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz – her equivalent in the Pakistani government – External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said here that the dialogue will include peace and security and Jammu and Kashmir.

Also Read: Full Text of Indo-Pak Joint Statement

Swaraj had earlier in the day met Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. She was in Islamabad to attend the multinational 'Heart of Asia' conference on Afghanistan.

Today's announcement caps a series of positive developments since Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Paris 10 days ago on the sidelines of a climate summit.

The Indian minister announced today that the Foreign Secretaries of two countries will meet to decide the modalities and schedule of the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue.

Also Read: What led to resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan

A Joint Statement issued afterwards said Pakistan has assured India of "steps being taken to expedite the early conclusion" of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks trial, something that India has been pressing for long.

The National Security Advisers (NSAs) of India and Pakistan, who had recently met in Bangkok, will continue to address all issues connected to terrorism, according to the Joint Statement issued by the two countries.

In another significant step towards betterment of ties, Modi will visit Pakistan to attend the SAARC Summit likely to be held in September next year.

The Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue will also include Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Baragge/Tulbul Navigation Project, Economic and Commercial Cooperation, Counter-Terrorism, Narcotics Control, Humanitarian Issues, People-to-People exchanges and religious tourism, the Joint Statement said.

Also Read: PM Modi to visit Pakistan for SAARC meet next year

It, however, made no mention of cricket. There was intense speculation that a decision could me made during Swaraj's visit on resuming cricketing ties between the two nations.

The Joint Statement also condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it.

At the joint press conference with Aziz, Swaraj said that she had a "very good meeting" with both Aziz and Sharif.

She said both the nations have decided to start afresh the dialogue, which was earlier going on in the name of Composite Dialogue and then in the name of Resumed Dialogue.

"The CBD (Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue) will have all the pillars of Composite Dialogue and some additional components. How this dialogue process should be taken forward will be decided in a meeting between our Foreign Secretaries, who will work on scheduling and modalities of the process.

"Scheduling means which all pillars, when, what modalities and who all Secretaries will hold it," Swaraj said adding, "It will have additional components apart from those in the Composite Dialogue."

Swaraj said she will make a detailed statement on her Pakistan visit in Parliament tomorrow.

Earlier, speaking at the 'Heart of Asia' ministerial conference on Afghanistan, Swaraj extended a hand of friendship to Pakistan, saying it was time the two countries displayed "maturity and self-confidence" to do business with each other and offered to move cooperation at a pace Pakistan is comfortable with.

"Let me take this opportunity to extend our hand to Pakistan as well. 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.

"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," she said.

Swaraj, who was accompanied by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, India's High Commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan and envoy to Afghanistan Amar Sinha, said terrorism in that country has grown in both intensity and scope in the last few months and that India was ready to work with the Afghan government to strengthen its defensive capability.

Asked what was the "big change" for India to commence a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue, sources said the NSA-level meeting to address terror-related issues went off constructively and that was a big change.

They said Pakistani side showed that they understand India's concerns over the Mumbai attacks trial on which the Pakistani side assured India of the steps to expedite the judicial process.

On the Swaraj-Aziz meeting, the sources said some amount of time was spent on the Mumbai attacks trial.

On renaming the dialogue process, they said, "the sense was that we could re-engage but there are other issues like fishermen and religious tourism which needed to be discussed..."

The sources said the dialogue process is not disowning the past but taking forward the broad-based dialogue.

"We wanted more than the existing subset in the composite dialogue that is why it was renamed," the sources said.

They said the Bangkok meeting was a good meeting and the issues were complex but were not dealt in an accusatory manner but in a constructive way.

Swaraj's meeting with Sharif was multi-lingual where Urdu, Hindustani and Punjabi were used for the conversation.

She also met Sharif's family which included four generations of his family -- his mother, wife, daughter and granddaughter.

The effort was to unblock ties and move forward, the sources said.

In her meeting with Aziz, Swaraj discussed a number of issues with the Pakistani side showing an understanding to India's concerns over terror.

Asked about the progress in ties, the sources said this goes back to Paris where the two Prime Ministers desired to find a way to go forward and India saw the 'Heart of Asia' conference as a good opportunity and to convince Pakistan to have NSAs meeting before the External Affairs Minister comes here.

(With PTI inputs)

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