Cheering the thaw: how the Pakistani press reacted to #SushmaInPak
- External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is in Islamabad for a multilateral meet on Afghanistan
- This is the first ministerial visit since SM Krishna went there in 2012
- Pakistani media has by and large said that the meeting reflects a thaw in Indo-Pak ties
- Some reports also focussed on Yashwant Sinha\'s criticism of the Modi govt\'s decision
Expectations are running high on both sides of the Wagah border as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visits Pakistan to attend a multilateral meeting on Afghanistan.
The Pakistani media is reporting her trip could help end the impasse in bilateral relations and lead to greater regional cooperation.
The Indian government's decision to send Swaraj to the Heart of Asia conference made the front pages of most of Pakistan's leading dailies.
"It's official now, Sushma will visit Pakistan," read the headline in The Express Tribune while the report in The Nation was headlined "Time to tap peace from Paris ice-melt".
The participation of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Swaraj in the Heart of Asia conference "has assumed greater significance because of their countries' frosty ties with Pakistan, particularly during the past few months," said a report in the influential Dawn newspaper.
Ghani and Swaraj had not confirmed their visit to Pakistan till Monday.
In the case of India, the decision came in the wake of a brief but crucial meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of a climate change conference in Paris.
"Prime Minister Sharif's ice-breaking meetings with President Ghani and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the margins of the climate change summit in Paris last week paved the way for their participation," the Dawn reported.
India's confirmation also came a day after the national security advisers of the two countries held secret talks in Bangkok and agreed to continue bilateral engagements.
According to The Nation, India is engaging with Pakistan because of international pressure
In a front page report, The Nation said: "India's sudden change in attitude reflects international pressure to engage with Islamabad. Pakistan-based foreign diplomats said....One European diplomat in Islamabad said such meetings were a good opportunity for the two sides to establish a clear roadmap for future talks."
The report added: "The apparent breakthrough follows months of deadlock after India cancelled planned talks in New Delhi in August over Pakistani officials' plans to meet Kashmiri leaders during their visit. India had claimed Pakistan had agreed to limit the discussion to terrorism in the Ufa Declaration in July, while Islamabad insisted the discussions were to include Kashmir."
The News quoted Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the Pakistan Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, as saying that Swaraj's visit marked a "good beginning as the deadlock that was present has to some extent been removed". Swaraj will also meet Prime Minister Sharif on Tuesday, he said.
Aziz said the fate of the dialogue with India will be clear only after he held talks with Swaraj.
Both the Dawn and The News noted that Swaraj's visit could hit the multilateral meeting on Afghanistan. "Swaraj's visit threatens to hijack focus on the Afghan meeting," The News reported.
The Dawn reported diplomatic observers feared that "Pakistan-India bilateral issues and the Pakistan-Afghanistan discussions on the future of the stalled Afghan reconciliation process could overshadow" the Heart of Asia meeting.
Another report in the Dawn, "Swaraj's visit to Pakistan attracts friendly fire", said Swaraj had waded through intense friendly fire from her right-wing peers over the visit.
"Terrorist attacks are going on throughout and India itself says that Pakistan is behind them. So what is the point then (in holding the talks)?" Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha said.
"The government owes it to the people of this country to tell them why they are resuming the dialogue."
The Nation also looked at the future of India-Pakistan cricket engagements, quoting its sources in the Pakistan Foreign Office as indicating that cricket ties between the two sides could soon be resumed.
"...Sushma is expected to propose a new test match series during her meeting with PM's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. Until the unannounced meeting of the NSAs...India had rejected Pakistan's proposal for reviving cricket diplomacy," it reported.
The Express Tribune, in its report "Modi-Nawaz give go ahead for Pakistan-India series," gave a thumbs up to the the most anticipated cricketing event. "...a bilateral series between Pakistan and India - is finally set to become a reality as the governments of both countries agreed on the series in principle, with a formal announcement expected to be made on Tuesday," the report said.
Since taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has authorised a more robust approach to Pakistan, giving security forces the authority to retaliate forcefully along their disputed border and has demanded an end to insurgent attacks in Indian territory.
Swaraj's visit is the first ministerial-level visit to Pakistan since then foreign minister SM Krishna travelled to Islamabad in 2012, which was before Modi became prime minister.
Modi and Sharif resumed high-level contacts with a brief conversation at the climate change talks in Paris last week and their national security advisers subsequently met in Bangkok on Sunday.
Ashraf Ghani and Sushma Swaraj had not confirmed their visit to Pakistan till Monday
Earlier, talks between the NSAs of India and Pakistan, scheduled for 23 and 24 August, were cancelled after the two sides were deadlocked over Islamabad's insistence on a meeting with Kashmiri separatist leaders despite New Delhi's "advice" to the contrary.
Pakistan then said it had come to the conclusion that the proposed talks between the NSAs would not serve any purpose if conducted on the basis of the conditions laid down by Swaraj.
Swaraj had insisted that the NSAs would only discuss issues related to terrorism and said that India did not recognise any third party in talks with Pakistan, referring to Islamabad's invitation to Hurriyat leaders for a meeting.
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