India, Pakistan warm up; formal talks to resume?

Former National Security Adviser Major-General Mahmud Ali Durrani said he think PM Modi would “like to move forward” on the dialogue with its neighbour

Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit poses for a group photograph with Indo-Pak students in New Delhi on Thursday PTI
Seven months after India called off the foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan, over its envoy’s meetings with Kashmiri separatist leaders, Pakistan High Commissioner in India Abdul Basit met newly appointed foreign secretary S Jaishankar.

The meeting comes a day after the minister of state for petroleum Dharmendra Pradhan called on Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad on the sidelines of a multilateral meeting to finalise the consortium leader for expeditious implementation of the 1,800-km Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project, pending almost over a decade.

Though official sources here said that Pakistan envoy’s meeting was a courtesy call on the new foreign secretary, but the meeting believed to have lasted for about 40 minutes did discuss ways to put the dialogue process back on track.

Pakistan envoy conveyed that prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s foreign policy’s corner stone was to build a peaceful neighbourhood for the sake of economic development. But India has steadfastly told Pakistan that a dialogue process can be resumed only after addressing “core concerns” of terrorism. It has been noticed here that apart from rhetoric, Pakistan High Commission has desisted meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders over past few months.

Pakistan’s former National Security Adviser Major-General (Retd.) Mahmud Ali Durrani, who was here recently after meeting the NSA Ajit Doval and foreign secretary S Jaishankar said he was returning with an impression that prime minister Modi would “like to move forward” on the dialogue. But added the new government would rather not pick up the old format of the composite dialogue process. “Modi is a different man with a different mind and has different thinking, as compared to previous prime minister,” said Durrani, “I think he will probably engage with Pakistan, but he would like to do that in his own way.”

Officials of the external affairs ministry said that they were attaching high priorities to the TAPI gas project, in which Pakistan is an important player. “The very fact that India has had regular ministerial representation at the TAPI steering committee meeting bears testimony to the importance attached by the government to this project despite the apprehensions about the geo-political situation and security scenario involving the project,” an official statement said.

The government said it was committed to source natural gas from Turkmenistan through the pipeline. Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth largest proven gas reserves. The pipeline will allow the landlocked country to export up to 33 billion cubic metres of natural gas a year from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India over 30 years.