Indian and Pakistani diplomats will meet next month for the first time since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration as the two countries seek to improve relations amid renewed violence on their disputed border.
The foreign secretaries of the two nuclear-armed neighbors will meet in Islamabad on Aug. 25, they agreed during a phone call yesterday, India Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters in New Delhi. It was the first contact between the nations’ diplomats since May. An Indian soldier was killed on the border this week in the latest border violence.
“Incidents of this nature will impede the positive work that the political leaders of both countries wish to undertake,” Akbaruddin said of the cross-border shootings.
The election of new governments in India and Pakistan over a little more than a year offers the countries the opportunity to make a fresh start as they seek to make peace and boost trade. The nations resumed peace talks three years ago after they were shattered by the 2008 attack by Pakistani militants on a Mumbai railway station and luxury hotels that killed 166 people.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended Modi’s inauguration in New Delhi in May, a step many analysts regarded as a boost to cross-border relations.
Still, Pakistan has violated a cease-fire agreement with India along their disputed border 54 times this year through July 16 and 19 times since the Modi government took office on May 26, Defense Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament July 22. Pakistan violated the cease-fire agreement 199 times last year, he said.
The Indian “army has given befitting reply to Pakistan’s repeated attempts of cease-fire violations,” Jaitley told parliament. “India will keep retaliating to such violations.”
India and Pakistan’s commerce ministers will probably meet today in Bhutan at a South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation trade ministers’ conference in Bhutan where they may discuss ways to improve economic ties.
While India and Pakistan have a combined population of 1.4 billion people, share a 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) border and have mutually understandable languages, trade between the nations totaled $2.6 billion last year. That’s less than 0.5 percent of India’s combined commerce with other nations, according to government data.
The countries have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over the disputed region of Kashmir, which is divided between them and claimed in full by both. Since 1988, more than 14,000 Indian civilians and 6,000 security personnel have been killed in violence in the disputed region of Kashmir, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which doesn’t have similar figures for Pakistani deaths.
The nations’ top foreign diplomats agreed that the Aug. 25 dialog “should be result oriented,” according to an e-mailed statement from Pakistan’s foreign ministry yesterday.
India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj will begin a three-day visit to Nepal tomorrow, where the officials will discuss boosting trade, energy and security cooperation. This will be Swaraj’s second trip to a neighboring country in the past month, in keeping with Modi’s pledge to prioritize ties with South Asian countries.