India foreign secretary in Pakistan in bid to mend ties

Subrahmanyan Jaishankar arrives in Islamabad for first meeting with counterpart since India called off August talks.

pakistan - Indian FM''s visit
Jaishankar, left, is officially slated to discuss issues related to the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation with his Pakistani counterpart [AFP]

Subrahmanyan Jaishankar, India’s foreign secretary, has arrived in Islamabad for the first meeting with his Pakistani counterpart since New Delhi called off talks last year which had been aimed at easing the rivals’ many disputes.

Jaishankar is officially slated to discuss issues related to the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation in meetings on Tuesday with Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours have resulted in both armies firing across their disputed border in the region of Kashmir several times in the past year.

At least a dozen people were killed and thousands forced to flee their homes in the latest exchanges in January.

Pakistan has expressed hope for resuming negotiations known as the Composite Dialogue, so-called because they aim to address multiple overlapping issues including Kashmir, cross-border “terrorism”, border and water issues.

A senior Indian diplomat was more cautious late last week, saying that he was “hesitant to predict” whether Tuesday’s meeting would lay the groundwork for restarting such negotiations.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August abruptly cancelled the last round of talks in Islamabad out of anger that Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi had hosted Kashmiri separatists.

Cricket call

Pakistan and India have fought two wars over Kashmir since the brutal fighting after the two countries’ partition in 1947 following the end of British colonial rule.

The Himalayan region is divided between the two countries by a disputed frontier, part of one of the world’s most heavily militarised borders.

India says Pakistan supports separatist fighters that cross from the Pakistan side to attack Indian forces.
Pakistan says India’s military is abusing the human rights of Muslim Kashmiris.

On Sunday, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) formed a coalition state government with the regional People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which promotes self-rule for Indian-controlled Kashmir and peace talks with separatists.

The new coalition offered a sign that cooperation is possible.

In another sign of a thawing in relations, Modi telephoned Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month to wish his country luck in the World Cup cricket tournament.

India won its match with Pakistan in the tournament a day later.