Resuming talks after a hiatus of seven months, India and Pakistan on Tuesday discussed each other’s “concerns and interests” with foreign secretary S Jaishankar raising the issue of terror, including the Mumbai attack, during a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart. Jaishankar, who arrived in Islamabad as part of his “SAARC yatra” after visiting Bhutan and Bangladesh, will be visiting Afghanistan on Wednesday to round off the first leg. While in Pakistan he also called on the prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs and national security, Sartaz Aziz, and his special assistant Tariq Fatemi.
Though bilateral issues did come up during Tuesday’s talks, New Delhi does not seem too inclined to project Indian foreign secretary’s Pakistan visit as a radical shift in the NDA government’s Pakistan policy. There was no talk about the resumption of the disrupted composite dialogue process between the two countries nor was there any hint that a time frame for this had been worked out. After talks with his Pakistan counterparts, Jaishankar was at pains to emphasise that the focus of his discussion was prime minister Narendra Modi’s ideas and initiatives to take SAARC forward. Pakistan will be the next SAARC chair and India would like to work with Pakistan to help SAARC achieve its potential, he said.
The tone and tenor of Pakistan leaders gives a clear indication that not much has changed in their approach since India stopped the composite dialogue process, and New Delhi should not be in a rush to normalise relations without tangible evidence that its concerns were being seriously addressed. The primary objective of Jaishankar’s SAARC yatra is to find out which countries are for and which are against Modi’s SAARC development vision enunciated in his speech in Kathmandu three months ago. New Delhi must let Pakistan know that its age-old policy of stonewalling connectivity efforts within SAARC will no longer be allowed to succeed.