NEW DELHI: India today expressed hope that re-engaging with Pakistan under a 'Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue' will mark beginning of peace and development as continued estrangement was a hurdle to peace and prosperity in the region.
Making a suo motu statement in Rajya Sabha on her last week's visit of Islamabad and recent developments relating to ties between the two neighbours, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had discussed with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the environment conference in Paris "again re-engaging with each other."
"The underlying sentiment, on which I am confident that this House concurs fully, was that the continued estrangement of two neighbours was a hurdle to the realisation of our shared vision of a peaceful and prosperous region," she said. At the same time, there was also a "sharp awareness" that principal obstacles to the growth of ties, especially terrorism, would have to be clearly and directly addressed.
She read out her statement as members of several opposition parties were in the Well vociferously raising slogans on several issues. Swaraj said following her visit to Islamabad a 'Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue' with Pakistan will begin with the objective of "removing hurdles in the path of a constructive engagement by addressing issues of concern."
Also, it aims at "exploring and establishing cooperative ties," she said, adding initiatives on trade and connectivity, people-to-people exchanges and humanitarian issues would contribute to welfare of the entire region and promote better understanding and mutual trust. "The new Dialogue, we sincerely hope, marks a new beginning also for peace and development in the whole region," she said. Following Modi-Sharif meeting on November 30, it was decided that the two sides should hold the NSA-level meeting. "The National Security Advisors of the two countries accordingly met on December 6" in Bangkok, Swaraj said.
The two NSAs focussed on "peace and security, terrorism, tranquility along the Line of Control and Jammu and Kashmir - the state which has been most directly impacted by terrorism and violation of LOC," she said, adding her visit to Islamabad came on the back of these "constructive talks".
Swaraj said in her talks with Sharif and Pakistan Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz in Islamabad, which where held in the backdrop of this "positive development", the "two sides condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate this menace." "There we dwelt on the need for Pakistan to expedite the Mumbai terrorist attacks trial. The Indian side was assured of the steps being taken to expedite its early conclusion," she said.
Following this, it was decided to begin a dialogue with Pakistan under the new title 'Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue' and foreign secretaries have been tasked to work out modalities and schedule of the meetings under the new dialogue, she said. "I would like to assure the House that this Government accords the highest priority to the country's security. In order to meet any threats in this regard, the government will take all steps, including through diplomatic channels," she said.
The Government, she said, was "committed to building an environment of peaceful and cooperative relations with all our neighbours, including Pakistan, so that the efforts for peace and development in South Asia, initiated by the Government on the day of assuming office itself, are taken further forward."