NEW DELHI -- While the how and why of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise visit to Lahore on Christmas Day is still being worked out, its first concrete outcome is that Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar will meet his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary on January 15 in Islamabad.
They are expected to set a schedule for the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue, which the two neighbours agreed to when Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Pakistan, earlier this month. Both sides have committed to talking about all outstanding issues.
Although it is Pakistan's turn to send its diplomats to India, New Delhi has settled for Islamabad so that Chaudhary can avoid meeting leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, The Times of India reported on Sunday.
Since Pakistan recognises Kashmiri separatists as true representatives of the conflict-ridden region, Chaudhary has no choice but to meet them if he comes to India. Meeting in Islamabad is a way around it.
India has called off talks twice over Pakistan's interaction with Hurriyat leaders since the Modi government came to power in May 2014, and neither side wants to take any chances with their first meeting of 2016, which will set the tone for the talks to advance through the year.
Not only with another cancellation jeopardise the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue, it will also be hugely embarrassing for Modi and his government, especially after his grand gesture.
While his spontaneous visit to Lahore has generally gone down well on both sides of the border, the Congress Party dismissed it as a "joke," a stunt to grab headlines, and self promotion over national interest.
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