Less than two months after Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif agreed that their top diplomats would keep in touch, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh spoke with her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary on Wednesday, and decided to fly to Islamabad on August 25 for a bilateral meeting.
The foreign secretaries last met face-to-face in Islamabad in September 2012.
Sources told The Indian Express that groundwork for Wednesday’s telephone conversation happened recently, when Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit met Singh and conveyed Islamabad’s invitation.
Pakistan offered the window of August 4-14; India, however, said the visit could take place only after Parliament’s Monsoon Session.
The Indian side also wanted to consult the Prime Minister’s Office, since Singh’s visit to Pakistan was obviously going to be seen as resumption of the dialogue process, stalled since January 2013, when an Indian soldier was beheaded on the Line of Control. For all practical purpose, however, then external affairs minister S M Krishna’s meeting with his Pakistani counter Hina Rabbani Khar in September 2012 was the last time the two countries had a proper official-level meeting.
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“The two foreign secretaries had a telephonic discussion a short while ago, and as part of that discussion they also discussed how they should move forward. And based on that telephonic conversation, they agreed that they will meet in Islamabad on August 25,” Syed Akbaruddin, official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said.
The spokesperson said that Foreign Secretary Singh had raised with her Pakistani counterpart the issue of recent incidents of firing along the international boundary. Singh had stressed that “incidents of this nature will impede the positive work” that the political leaders of the two countries wished to take up.
“She also reiterated that meaningful cooperation between the two countries cannot take place alongside violence and the sound of bullets on the border,” he said.
Asked about the status of the proposed gas pipeline between India and Pakistan, the spokesperson said the first diplomatic contact following the meeting between the two Prime Ministers had only just happened.
In a press statement issued on Wednesday, the Pakistan government said, “In keeping with the vision of the two Prime Ministers to improve and establish good neighbourly relations, the Foreign Secretaries agreed that the dialogue process between the two countries should be result-oriented.”