Indo-Pak Thaw: Modi tasks Foreign Secretary to break ice

Indo-Pak Thaw: Modi tasks Foreign Secretary to break ice

Sharif welcomed the foreign secretary''s proposed visit "to discuss all issues of common interest", Pakistan Prime Minister''s Spokesperson said in Islamabad.

In an ice-breaking move after a six-month hiatus in Indo-Pak ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today spoke to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after which it was announced that Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will visit Islamabad when he will "push bilateral agenda".


Using cricket diplomacy, Modi called leaders of four SAARC nations which, along with India, are participating in cricket World Cup starting on Sunday. He conveyed best wishes to their teams.

Thereafter, Modi announced that Jaishankar will undertake a "SAARC Yatra" soon to strengthen relationship with them.


The "Yatra" will take him to Pakistan with which India broke off foreign secretary-level talks in August last at the eleventh hour because the Pakistan High Commissioner here held consultations with Kashmiri separatists.


Sharif welcomed the foreign secretary’s proposed visit "to discuss all issues of common interest", Pakistan Prime Minister’s Spokesperson said in Islamabad. 


Briefing reporters, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, "Obviously, no one misuses an opportunity available," when asked if the Foreign Secretary will use the visit to discuss bilateral issues.


"Sure, we have a bilateral agenda with all the SAARC countries and we will pursue that bilateral agenda too within the constraints of short visit to each of these countries. Every leader and diplomat uses every opportunity to push its bilateral agenda," he said when repeatedly asked about Foreign Secretary’s visit to Pakistan and if he will discuss bilateral issues.


However, he emphasized that the Foreign Secretary’s "Yatra", at the instruction of the Prime Minister, will be mainly with a focus on SAARC agenda as outlined by Modi at the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu in November last. This included a dedicated SAARC satellite, South Asian University and simplified medical visas, he said.


Significantly, Modi’s telephonic call to Sharif today came hours after US President Barack Obama spoke with the Pakistani Prime Minister.


Asked about Sharif’s remarks to Obama that India’s permanent membership in the reformed UN Security Council was unacceptable to Pakistan as it has not complied with UN resolutions on Kashmir, Akbaruddin said every country was entitled to their views.


However, since the matter was being discussed in UN General Assembly, no country has a veto power regarding the issue, the Spokesperson added. 


According to reports, newly appointed Foreign Secretary and Pakistan’s High Commissioner in India Abdul Basit recently discussed the modalities of resuming talks between two countries which has been hobbled by many irritants.


Both met in New Delhi and discussed about relations between two countries and how to make it better. Both the countries discussed issues at length. India reiterated its position that Pakistan must punish perpetrators of 26/ 11 Mumbai attack.


"The talks were held in a very cordial manner. It was a courtesy call by the high commissioner on the new foreign secretary but some exploratory discussions did take place," said a source.


The sign of a thaw in ties comes weeks after a visit to India by US President Barack Obama.


The United States has long privately encouraged dialogue between India and Pakistan hoping that better ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors could lead to cooperation in other areas such as Afghanistan.

Modi called his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, early on Friday to wish his country luck in the World Cup cricket tournament beginning this weekend and to tell him that new Foreign Secretary

SubrahmanyanJaishankar will soon visit Islamabad as well as other regional capitals.


Incidentally, the PM’s phone call to Sharif went out just a few hours after US president Barack Obama gave a pat on the back to Pakistan for combating terror in a one-on-one telephone conversation.

During his call, Modi joked with Sharif about playing a warm-up World Cup match in 1987 alongside Imran Khan, cricketer-turned-politician who is now Pakistan’s top opposition leader, official sources said.

In response, Sharif reportedly laughed and said, "Kashvo din dubaaraaatay (I wish those days would come back)".


The Indian government last year abruptly called off talks between the foreign secretaries, incensed that Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi had hosted Kashmiri separatists in the run-up to those talks.


Sharif told Modi that he welcomed the proposed visit of the Indian envoy to Pakistan to discuss all issues of common interest, the Pakistani foreign office said in a statement. 


Sharif’s office said in a statement that Prime Minister Modi made a telephone call to Sharif this morning and informed that India’s Foreign Secretary would visit Pakistan.


"After greetings and pleasantries Prime Minister Modi informed the Prime Minister that India’s new Foreign Secretary will soon visit all SAARC counties and would also like to visit Pakistan," the statement said.


"The Prime Minister, recalling his meeting with the Prime Minister of India on 27th May, 2014 welcomed the visit of Indian Foreign Secretary to Pakistan to discuss all issues of common interest," it said.


Modi said in a Twitter post that he called the leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, besides Pakistan to wish them luck in the cricket tournament being held in Australia.


Modi said he would be sending country’s new Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on a ‘SAARC Yatra’ to "further strengthen our ties". 


The last time that Modi and Sharif met was at the SAARC summit in Kathmandu, where after avoiding eye-contact for two days, they shook hands to thunderous applause at the end of the event in November.


Earlier last Sunday in his address to Indian ambassadors, President Pranab Mukherjee had said that the initiative to invite SAARC leaders in May “must be followed through to its logical conclusion through incisive diplomacy even as we remain firm in protecting our security and putting in place impregnable security mechanisms”. He had described the invitation as a demonstration of India’s “dynamism and bold leadership”


Mukherjee had said that India’s “initiatives in the neighborhood must be followed up with concrete steps to consolidate and make permanent the advances we make in our relations.”


(With inputs from agencies)