India, Pakistan break the ice off camera in Bangkok

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Nasir Janjua also discussed peace and security and other issues including tranquility along the LoC.

Written by Shubhajit Roy , Praveen Swami , Sheela Bhatt | New Delhi | Updated: December 7, 2015 8:29 pm
india, pakistan, india pakistan meet, indo pak nsa meet, india news, pakistan news, jammu kashmir, india pak loc, pakistan india, pakistan india talks India, Pakistan NSAs agreed to take forward the “constructive” engagement after the meeting in Bangkok.

Breaking the diplomatic deadlock, the national security advisors of India and Pakistan held a meeting away from the public gaze in Bangkok on Sunday, six days after the two prime ministers met in Paris on the sidelines of the climate conference.

The news of Sunday’s meeting was released by Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup, who tweeted a photo, at 4.39 pm, of a smiling NSA Ajit Doval shaking hands with his Pakistani counterpart Lt Gen (retd) Naseer Khan Janjua.

Read: NSA meet ‘grand betrayal’ by Modi govt: Congress

Significantly, the crucial sticking point of “Jammu and Kashmir”, which was not part of the last joint statement issued by the two sides at the Russian city of Ufa in July, was discussed by the two NSAs in Bangkok.

The national security advisors were earlier scheduled to meet in New Delhi in August but that was cancelled virtually at the last minute, mainly on the issue of the then Pakistani NSA Sartaj Aziz meeting Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir and the condition that the talks will only be on terrorism.

The latest breakthrough came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif met in Paris on the sidelines of the COP-21 summit, where they exchanged ideas on a possible way forward.

“In a brief interaction in Paris, Prime Minister Modi and PM Sharif felt that both countries should talk. The Bangkok meeting followed their decision,” said a top government source.

Read: In Paris, a brief climate-change moment

The source said the meeting also indicated a “softening of attitudes” between the two neighbours. “Khul ke baat hui, aage bhi baat karenge (Both sides opened up, they will be more talks in the future),” said the source.

There will be a further bilateral engagement later this week when Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj travels to Islamabad for the Heart of Asia conference (on Afghanistan) on December 9, the source said.

“Tomorrow (December 7), there will be an announcement regarding the Foreign Minister’s visit to Pakistan,” said the source.

Highlighting the nuances of the thaw, the source said that both sides will avoid the media while pursuing the engagement to avoid being forced by domestic pressures into a situation of one-upmanship.

Before the Modi-Sharif meeting in Paris, sources said, Doval and Janjua spent weeks exchanging proposals through Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit to break the deadlock leading to the Sunday meeting.

A senior official said that Basit spoke with Doval on multiple occasions from mid-November, sometimes several times in a day, in addition to both meeting at least once. Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar was also involved in talks with Basit, said the official.

Read: How Pakistani press covered Modi-Sharif Paris meet

Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, Sunday’s meeting covered terrorism and peace along the Line of Control. New Delhi showed flexibility on this “broadening” of the agenda, which was one of the key demands of Pakistan, said sources.

Two officials familiar with the meeting said Doval called on Pakistan to take steps to rein in operations by anti-India organisations like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, both of which have stepped up operations in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The discussions were substantial. India had questions about how Pakistan will ensure that terrorist groups operating from its soil do not stage strikes, while Pakistan had some ideas on reviving a substantial, results-oriented dialogue on Kashmir. There was no polemic or grandstanding,” said an official.

Both sides agreed to further meetings between the NSAs and foreign secretaries, he added.

Sources said Bangkok was chosen as the venue to avoid even a “shadow” of a possible meeting between the Pakistan NSA with Hurriyat leaders from Kashmir. The BJP-led NDA government had made any such meeting before official talks an important and new red line, which led to the cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks in August 2014 and the NSA talks a year later.

Apart from the NSAs, the Bangkok meeting was attended by Jaishankar, the PM’s special envoy on counter-terrorism Asif Ibrahim, joint Secretary (PMO) Vinay Kwatra and Jawed Ashraf, who was a joint secretary in the PMO till some time ago. Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahsan Chaudhary was present.

Officials said the choice of Bangkok was also driven by the fact that Jaishankar was in Tokyo to prepare for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India.

Interestingly, Foreign Minister Swaraj had previously ruled out the possibility of talks in a third country and told reporters on August 22 that any such dialogue would “take place either in New Delhi or Islamabad”.

After the meeting on Sunday, a carefully drafted press release said, “Discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues, including tranquility along the LoC.”

Interestingly, the release, issued from Bangkok, also referred to “meetings” between the two prime ministers in Paris.

“Pursuant to the meetings of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in Paris, the National Security Advisors, accompanied by the Foreign Secretaries, met in Bangkok today. Discussions were held in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere,” the release said.

“They 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.

Sources said extraordinary measures were taken to avoid early disclosure of this meeting, with staff at the Ministry of External Affairs being told only that the Foreign Secretary was travelling to Japan. For his part, sources said, Doval consulted key figures in the intelligence community over the last fortnight on Pakistan but gave no indication that a resumption of dialogue was imminent.

Sunday’s meeting may also open the way for Modi to travel to Pakistan for a forthcoming SAARC summit, a visit that many fear will be called off.

The Bangkok meeting is the first where India has held formal bilateral negotiations with Pakistan on Jammu and Kashmir in a third country, although chiefs of the Research and Analysis Wing and Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, as well as back-channel negotiators, have met abroad on several occasions.

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  1. S
    Satendra kumar
    Dec 6, 2015 at 11:20 pm
    The meeting between both countries INDIA and STAN in Thailand shows is very important for South Asia for peace prosperity and stable governments in the region plus engaging in international treaties for making world a better place.
    1. Y
      Dec 6, 2015 at 12:24 pm
      stan (following their recent Army Head visit to US aid) clearly doing this to extract more $Millions from naive Americans - nothing more will come out of this
      1. A
        Abdul Rahman
        Dec 7, 2015 at 6:18 am
        Now BJP also along with Congress. BJP trust stan. That is why our PM Modi shook hands with Pak PM though he is not looking the face of Modi; Sushmaji will meet Pak FM this month secretly in stan; Dovalji secretly met Pak NSA in Bangkok because he don't trust that such a meeting is possible in India. Allies like SS and MNS may burn the effigy of Pak /Indian NSA or sometime they may go to the extent of burning the effigy of Modiji
        1. A
          Abdul Rahman
          Dec 7, 2015 at 6:22 am
          Why are you scolding Arivali. Arivali means "Intellectual Person". How can an intellectual be an . We are s. BJP is ready to go to any extent to get into s.
          1. D
            Desy girl
            Dec 7, 2015 at 10:21 am
            No body in India cares whether stan wants be friend of India or not, its upto stan to decide whether it wants friendly relationship with India or it wants permanent enmity with India… if stan wants friendly relationship with India then it will be beneficial to stan only… even though stan can say they are having close relationship with China but how far Chinese relationship has helped stan …. In reality nothing because Chinese does not have any kind of emotional bond with stan, they want stan because of India, based on that only they treat stan, which means stan will get weapon systems to fight India but for stan’s economical growth Chinese relationship has not helped stan much. Even though India and stan love to hate each other but there is emotional bond which can’t be there in any other relationship. Example our Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan’s place of birth is stan, our opposition leader Mr. Advani’s place of birth is stan, in the similar manner stan president’s place of birth is India. In reality these things should have created closure relationship between India and stan but we are opposite, we hate each other…. whats the root cause of this hatred, average Indian or stani does not have anything against each other, when Indian cricket team goes to stan the love and affection shown by stani people are great in the same manner when stan cricket team comes to India same kind of affection shown to them. So where is the problem, its with stan Government, ISI and its Army is the root cause of the problem, I am telling this because Indian political system does not spread hatred on stan, no one in India is going to vote based on the hatred towards stan… Even if you see Narendra Modi’s speech he used to talk mainly about economical growth, when he speaks of stan its about terrorism, Congress also talks about economical growth only. No body is willing to accept this, several opinion makers and writers always used to make both the Governments are same but reality is different, Indian Government wants peace but stan Government does not want peace… These opinion makers think when they criticize both India and stan equally then only it will be considered as impartial writing or else it will be considered as partiality. Recommend
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