Two days after the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan met in Bangkok, the government has confirmed that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will travel to Islamabad tomorrow on a two-day visit during which she is expected to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and hold talks with her Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz at the 'Heart of Asia' 5th Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan.
"External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to lead Indian delegation for 'Heart of Asia' 5th Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan on December 9 in Islamabad," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup confirmed on Monday.
Even as the opposition continued to put the government on the mat over the secret talks, the Express Tribune quoted unnamed Pakistan government sources as saying that the engagements on the sidelines of the Afghanistan conference "will be in the nature of courtesy meetings as Pakistan is the host nation.”
Swaraj's visit will mark the first significant engagement between the two nations since the meeting between Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Ufa, Russia in July this year, the report stated. Her visit comes three years after former External Affairs Minister SM Krishna travelled to Islamabad in 2012 when the countries also inked a visa liberalisation pact.
During her visit, Swaraj will be accompanied by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, who was also present during the four-hour-long meeting between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Naseer Janjua in the Thai capital, PTI reported.
The joint statement after the meeting of NSAs said the talks were held pursuant to a meeting between Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the climate meet in Paris, rejecting the version given by the Indian side then that it was a mere "exchange of courtesies" although Sharif had told Pakistani media that he had a "good meeting" and "doors of dialogue should open".
Pakistan had called-off Aziz' visit after New Delhi had made it clear that he would not be allowed to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders in the Indian capital.
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Rajiv Pratap Rudy also confirmed Swaraj's visit to Islamabad and said that she would brief both the houses of Parliament in detail on the present status of Indo-Pak relations once she returns.
"Sushma Swaraj will be visiting Pakistan tomorrow and once she returns, she will give a detailed statement about the discussions with Pakistan over issues including Terrorism. The government is fully prepared to give an updated status of Indo-Pak talks and this has been communicated to both the houses," Rudy told the media outside the Parliament.
Doval and Janjua discussed a range of issues, including peace and security, terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir. According to reports, the meeting was agreed upon by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif when they met in Paris last week on the sidelines of COP-21.
Betrayal, says Opposition
Meanwhile, the opposition has slammed the NSA meet as a a betrayal of national interests.
The Congress Party lashed out at the government for initiating the secretive talks. Congress Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said "the Congress Party has always stood for peaceful resolution through mutual cooperation and mutual talks, but this (NDA) government did not take us into confidence about the talks in Bangkok."
"The talks with Pakistan have gone through a series of flip-flops and the current talks do not inspire much expectation. Further, it raises the question of whether these talks are being used as a diversion by the Modi government from pivotal issues such as the economic, political or agrarian crisis," he added.
Congress leader and former union minister Manish Tewari said, "Bangkok represents the greatest betrayal of national interest. What has changed?"
Another Congress leader P.L. Punia told ANI, "It is difficult to understand the foreign policy of this government. There should be talks, we are not against it, but there should be some result also. Without any policy and agenda, there is no use of having such dialogues."
Punia further stated that he was surprised that the Kashmir issue had also been raised by the Indian and Pakistan delegations at the talks in Bangkok, adding, "NSA-level is only to discuss on terrorist activities and how to tackle terrorism."
Pramod Tewari, another senior Congress leader, said, "I have heard that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is going to Pakistan. I do not know what is happening, but one thing is sure, ceasefire violations and dialogue cannot go hand in hand. We cannot spare terrorists. These talks in Bangkok should be condemned vehemently."
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told ANI, "When both India and Pakistan are talking, even then ceasefire violations are continuing along the border against India. My question is what India is going to achieve through these dialogues. Terrorism in India cannot take place without Pakistan's support. Pakistan wants to finish off India."
He further stated, "We will keep on being sweet with Pakistan, and on the contrary, they will (continue to) kill our soldiers. This cannot happen for long." (With inputs from PTI and ANI)
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