Top Pakistan diplomat to visit India

Female members of the Indian police force taking part in an Independence Day parade rehearsal yesterday in Indian Kashmir, where a grenade exploded outside a mosque and injured 10 worshippers.
Female members of the Indian police force taking part in an Independence Day parade rehearsal yesterday in Indian Kashmir, where a grenade exploded outside a mosque and injured 10 worshippers.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

'Ice-breaking' tour this month by Sartaj Aziz could lead to more comprehensive dialogue

ISLAMABAD • Pakistan's top diplomat said yesterday that he will visit India this month on an "ice-breaking" tour as violence simmers in the disputed Kashmir territory.

"I can briefly confirm that I will be going to India on Aug 23 for talks," Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz told a joint press conference with visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Islamabad.

There has been a rise in cross-border shelling along the de facto border separating the two halves of Kashmir in recent weeks.

A grenade exploded outside a mosque on the Indian side of Kashmir yesterday, injuring 10 worshippers after morning prayers, in the first such incident in 14 years, local police said. The attack came ahead of India's Independence Day celebrations tomorrow.

India has already stepped up security in the wake of a deadly militant attack in its northern Punjab state last month that left 10 dead.

After months of stalemate and recriminations, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif spoke for around an hour while visiting Russia last month, recognising their "collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development". Mr Modi also accepted an invitation from Mr Sharif to visit Pakistan next year, raising hopes of an improvement in difficult relations.

Mr Aziz said his visit is "not a breakthrough in terms of composite dialogue and all the issues, but at least it is an ice-breaking on some issues... and (hopefully) it will lead to further more comprehensive dialogue on the other issues between the two countries".

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since the partition of the subcontinent in the wake of independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

Since 1989, several rebel groups have waged campaigns against the hundreds of thousands of Indian troops deployed in Kashmir, hoping to achieve independence or the territory's merger with Pakistan.

Iran's Mr Zarif, meanwhile, expressed hope for the revival of a stalled gas pipeline project connecting Iran to energy-starved Pakistan, following last month's signing of a historic nuclear deal between Teheran and world powers.

"The impediment to greater and more enhanced cooperation between Iran and Pakistan would have been removed, through the removal of sanctions, and that is why the work on the Iran-Pakistan pipeline could go ahead more expeditiously," he said, following talks with Mr Aziz and Mr Sharif.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2015, with the headline 'Top Pakistan diplomat to visit India'. Print Edition | Subscribe