ISLAMABAD: India’s top diplomat pledged to improve relations with Pakistan on Tuesday after the first meeting with his counterpart since India called off talks aimed at easing the rivals’ many disputes last year.
Tension between the nuclear-armed neighbours has resulted in both armies firing across their disputed border in the region of Kashmir several times in the past year. At least a dozen people were killed and thousands forced to flee from their homes in the latest fighting in January.
Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyan Jaishankar stopped short of announcing a resumption of the talks on his trip, officially to discuss issues related to the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation, after meetings with his Pakistani counterpart, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.
“We are going to work together to find common ground and narrow differences,” Jaishankar told reporters.
He said the two sides agreed to cooperate on cross-border terrorism.
“We agreed that ensuring peace and tranquillity on the border was vital,” he said.
The Pakistani side had expressed hope for resuming negotiations known as the Composite Dialogue, so-called because they aim to address multiple overlapping issues including Kashmir, cross-border terrorism and disputes over their border and water.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August abruptly cancelled a round of talks in Islamabad out of anger that Pakistan’s envoy in New Delhi had hosted Kashmiri separatists in preparation.
Pakistan and India have fought two wars over Kashmir since fighting following the two countries’ partition in 1947 following the end of British colonial rule.
The Himalayan region is divided between the two countries by a disputed frontier, part of one of the world’s most heavily militarised borders.
India says Pakistan supports separatist militants that cross from the Pakistan side to attack Indian forces. Pakistan says India’s military is abusing the human rights of Muslim Kashmiris.
On Sunday in Kashmir, Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party formed a coalition state government with the regional People’s Democratic Party, which promotes self-rule for Indian-controlled Kashmir and peace talks with militant separatists.
The new coalition offered a sign that cooperation is possible.
Another sign Modi might be warming to the idea of improving relations: the Indian leader telephoned Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month to wish his country luck in the World Cup cricket tournament.
India won its match with Pakistan in the tournament a day later.
(Additional reporting by Frank Jack Daniel in New Delhi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence, Robert Birsel)