With cool winds from Margalla Hills blowing in the Pakistan capital, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived Tuesday in Islamabad with some warmth.
Swaraj, who attended an hour-long dinner and cultural programme in the evening, hosted by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s foreign affairs adviser Sartaj Aziz, said she wanted ties between the two countries to improve and that she would hold talks to accomplish this.
EAM Sushma Swaraj in Islamabad (Pakistan), speaks on the message she has come with to Pakistan. http://t.co/8CR8IL7RWj
— ANI (@ANI_news) December 8, 2015
Swaraj, who is here to attend the Heart of Asia conference, and Aziz sat at the same table alongside foreign ministers from other countries. “I have come with the message that ties between the two countries should be good and move forward,” she said at the airport, beginning her visit that would last less than 24 hours. The last time she was in Pakistan was in 2002 to attend the SAARC I&B ministers conference.
Swaraj is likely to call on Sharif at 4 pm Wednesday and then hold talks with her counterpart Aziz at 5.15 pm, sources said. Before that, from 9 am to 1 pm, she will attend the ministerial session of the Heart of Asia conference.
On Monday, Aziz had said that talks will focus on resumption of the composite dialogue process, and that the deadlock in Indo-Pak ties has eased to an extent — a far cry from the bitter exchange of words about three-and-a-half months ago.
While the overall atmosphere appeared positive, leading analysts in the country sounded a note of caution.
Javed Jabbar, a former senator and member of the think tank, Senate Forum for Policy Research, told The Indian Express that he is viewing the engagement between the two countries with “positive scepticism”.
“I am happy to see the meetings taking place, since the attitude by the Indian government had shown very less flexibility,” he said. “I am sceptical of any success, unless the Narendra Modi government gives credit to the work done by Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and carries forward the good work (that has been) done.”
Similarly, he said, the Pakistan government “should look forward” and “not treat the work done by Musharraf as Musharraf’s concept. It should instead see it as Pakistan’s concept”.
Humayun Bangash, a retired Lieutenant General based in Lahore who heads the India-Pakistan soldiers initiative for peace, said, “This is a like a breath of fresh air. We can’t afford to be hostile like this; it was unfortunate that there was a breakdown of talks. It was a great disappointment.”
Bangash, who has also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Turkey, however, added, “I will be stupid to have high hopes. But it’s good that ice-breaking took place.”
“The extremists on both sides want to spike the talks, but it is the leadership at the political level whose directions are to be followed,” Bangash said.
Muhammad Mehdi, a foreign policy analyst who has been associated with the PML(N), said he “does not have too much hope” from the engagement. “Many times, dialogue has begun, and then stopped,” Mehdi said.
He said both countries need a “peaceful and quiet” Line of Control, and the current round of meetings and outreach was happening due to “international pressure”.
Mosharraf Zaidi, a former adviser to the Pakistan foreign ministry, said that the fresh round of engagement is because of “cooler heads in Delhi”. “This engagement enables us liberals, gives us some ammunition after a year. We have to find the silver lining in small things,” he said, hoping that the Indian PM would come to Pakistan for the SAARC summit next year.