NEW DELHI(PTI): External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday told members of the Lok Sabha that both Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had decided during their meeting in Paris, France, to resume dialogue at the level of National Security Advisors.
Delivering a statement in Hindi in the Lower House, Swaraj said, “PMs (India-Pakistan) decided to resume NSA -level talks after they met in Paris recently.”
Regarding her visit to Pakistan last week to attend the Heart of Asia conference and to her engagements with the Pakistan leadership, Swaraj said that the announcement for the commencing of a comprehensive bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan was made through a joint statement issued on December 9.
She also informed the House that India had played a positive role at the Heart of Asia Summit.
On the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, she informed members of the Lok Sabha that the Indian Government had categorically told the Pakistan Government that there was a need to expedite trial and bring those involved in the horrific incident that claimed 166 lives to justice.
During an 30-minute discussion following the statement, thirteen Members of the Lok Sabha by and large welcomed the Indian Government’s decision to restart the talks and the dignified way in which Swaraj had led the Indian delegation in the engagement with their Pakistani counterparts, but some said that it was procedural achievement moving forward that needed to be converted into actionable results on the ground. They insisted that India’s vital interests needed to be protected at all costs.
They also flagged their concerns over the issue of cross-border militancy and terrorism, and asked whether the Pakistan Government had given concrete assurances to the Indian delegation that these sorts of incidents would be stopped and acted upon firmly should they occur.
After the 30-minute intervention, Swaraj said that it was not at all her intention to deliberately delay in giving a statement on her visit to the Parliament, and categorically said that as of now, ‘nothing has changed on the ground’, and it would be erroneous at this point in time to think so.
She also said that the political status of Jammu and Kashmir had not been raised or discussed in Islamabad, and added that the joint statement issued on December 9 clearly mentions that the region was only mentioned in the context of NSAs dealing with the issue of terrorism.
She also took exception to the remark that the current Indian Government was engaged in a ‘flip-flop’ exercise with Pakistan. She reminded members of the Lower House that back channel dialogue has been ongoing at various places around the world to find a way to formalise the talks process. Such talks had taken place during the UPA regime in places like Thimphu and Havana and there was no secrecy or third country involvement in these back channel talks, she added.
All issues would be taken up during the next round of dialogue, she said, and hopefully with an element of trust on both sides.
Earlier, delivering a similar statement in the Rajya Sabha, Swaraj maintained that the talks between India and Pakistan would mark the beginning of peace and development in South Asia.
Though most of her statement was drowned out by raucous opposition protests over the state of lawlessness in Punjab and a demand for the dismissal of the Prakash Singh Badal-led state government, Swaraj expressed the hope that re-engaging with Pakistan under a ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ will mark beginning of peace and development as continued estrangement was a hurdle to peace and prosperity in the region.
The suo motu statement on her visit to Islamabad last week and the recent developments relating to bilateral ties between the two neighbours, also mentioned the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had discussed with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the environment conference in Paris of the need to “again re-engage with each other.
She said, there was also a “sharp awareness” that principal obstacles to the growth of ties, especially terrorism, would have to be clearly and directly addressed.
Swaraj said initiatives on trade and connectivity, people-to-people exchanges and humanitarian issues would contribute to welfare of the entire region and promote better understanding and mutual trust.
She said the government accords the highest priority to the country’s security and building an environment of peaceful, cooperative relations with neighbours, including Pakistan.
She also said foreign secretaries of both countries have been tasked to work out modalities and schedule of the meetings under the new dialogue.
The External Affairs Minister said the government will take all steps, including through diplomatic channels in order to meet any security threat.
Swaraj said both India and Pakistan have condemned terrorism in all of its manifestations and resolved to cooperate to eliminate this menace.
She said New Delhi has been assured that steps are being taken to expedite the early conclusion of the 26/11 Mumbai trial.