The national security advisers of Pakistan and India met in Bangkok on Sunday in a surprise development that is likely to thaw the frosty relationship between the two neighbours.
The meeting between Lt General (retd) Nasser Khan Janjua and Ajit Doval lasted over four hours, says a joint statement simultaneously released by Islamabad and New Delhi. The foreign secretaries of the two countries also attended the meeting where peace and security, terrorism and Kashmir dispute were discussed. Other issues that came up for discussion included tranquility along the Line of Control (LoC), it added.
Analysts see the Janjua-Doval meeting as a major breakthrough given the ongoing tensions between the two hostile neighbours. It came days after a brief informal meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.
The Paris rendezvous has now turned out to be more than just a ‘courtesy call’ as suggested earlier by the two sides. Sources say it was pre-scheduled but the two sides deliberately portrayed it as a chance interaction in order to avoid any undue expectations from the talks.
Officials say the decision to arrange a meeting between the two national security advisers along with the foreign secretaries was taken during the Paris meeting. The joint statement also confirmed that Janjua and Doval met in Bangkok pursuant to the Paris meeting.
“Discussions were held in a candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere,” the statement said, adding that discussions 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 added.
The NSA-level meeting was originally scheduled for August in New Delhi according to an agreement reached during the Nawaz-Modi meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the Russian city of Ufa in July. However, differences on the agenda as well as media-hype led to the cancellation of the meeting at the eleventh hour.
But the two countries have now found a way to get the process back on track. A senior Pakistani official said the two prime ministers agreed in Paris not to make announcement of the NSA level talks in an effort to avoid unnecessary media hype.
An official at the Prime Minister House says the Janjua-Doval meeting took place after the Indian prime minister accepted Pakistan’s two major demands — inclusion of foreign secretaries in the meeting and not limiting discussions to terrorism-related issues.
The official adds that the Bangkok meeting is a ‘win-win’ situation for Pakistan and India. The talks covered issues concerning both sides. The ice-breaking NSA talks will pave way for a visit of India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Pakistan this week.
Swaraj is primarily arriving for a two-day Heart of Asia-Istanbul conference but on the sidelines she will hold talks with her Pakistani counterpart on bilateral issues. Officials say future engagements between the two countries are likely to be on the pattern of the Bangkok meeting.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2015.