Asia

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in Pakistan for talks

  • 8 December 2015
  • From the section Asia
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (L) is greeted by Indian and Pakistani officials upon her arrival at the military Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi on December 8, 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj (left) will meet Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is in Islamabad to attend a security conference on Afghanistan and to hold rare talks with Pakistani officials.

The minister will join representatives from 14 nations at the annual Heart of Asia conference on Wednesday.

Her visit comes days after India and Pakistan held peace talks in Bangkok.

They cancelled a high-level meeting in August after months of tension in disputed Kashmir but ties have eased since. Few expect any breakthroughs.

The Heart of Asia gathering brings together Asian and other countries to discuss the future of Afghanistan and its neighbours.

Security co-operation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is seen as crucial in countering a growing threat from the Taliban and other militants in the region. Many Afghans accuse Pakistan of supporting the Taliban, which Islamabad denies.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pakistani troops guard the Afghan border - the two sides have long disagreed over how to tackle the Taliban

Afghanistan is also a source of tension between Pakistan and India, with the former accusing the latter of meddling in what it sees as its backyard.

But in a sign of a thaw in the relationship, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a brief meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at a climate change conference in Paris on 1 December.

That was followed by Sunday's meeting in the Thai capital, Bangkok. A statement issued after Sunday's meeting said the security advisers of the two countries had talked about terrorism, Kashmir, peace and security.

The statement added that the Bangkok meeting was held in a "candid, cordial and constructive atmosphere".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation from Nawaz Sharif to attend a regional summit in Islamabad next year

"It was agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement between the two countries," it said.

Correspondents say the high-level talks and Ms Swaraj's visit show that the nuclear-armed rivals are open to restart peace talks after what was described as a "diplomatic fiasco" in August.

India had asked Pakistan to restrict the August talks solely to militancy after a row over the Pakistani delegation's plan to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders.

The stalemate over the agenda led to the talks being cancelled.

But four months later the talks are back on - Ms Swaraj becomes the first Indian foreign minister to visit Pakistan in three years.

The South Asian rivals have fought two wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir.

Pakistan has always insisted that there cannot be any dialogue with India unless the issue of Kashmir is on the agenda.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Many people in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley oppose Indian rule

The region, claimed by both countries in its entirety, has been a flashpoint for more than 60 years. A ceasefire agreed in 2003 remains in place, but the neighbours often accuse each other of violating it and of cross-border shelling.

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