S Jaishankar‘s SAARC yatra includes Pakistan visit

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India's new foreign Secretary : S Jaishankar
India’s new foreign Secretary : S Jaishankar

Though the Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar undertakes ‘SAARC yatra’ March 1 starting with Bhutan, all eyes will be on his visit to Pakistan. It will mark the resumption of Indo-Pak talks, maintaining India stands ready to discuss all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir. Jaishankar will be in Bhutan on 1 March, followed by Bangladesh on 2 March, Pakistan on 3 March and Afghanistan on 4 March, the spokesperson of External Affairs Ministry said  while giving the itinerary of the first leg of Foreign Secretary’s ‘SAARC yatra’.

 Noting that the visit was in accordance with the Prime Minister’s directive, the official spokesperson said, “The schedule for other destinations was being worked out through diplomatic channels.” Jaishankar will travel to Pakistan seven months after India cancelled foreign secretary-level talks because the Pakistan High Commissioner here held consultations with Kashmiri separatists.

 “We stand ready to talk with Pakistan in accordance with the Simla Agreement on all issues including Jammu & Kashmir,” the MEA spokesperson said.

 Jaishankar’s visit comes nearly two-and-a-half years after Ranjan Mathai travelled to Islamabad to hold talks. During the visit, Jaishankar will also review various initiatives for the region, including SAARC satellites and regional university, as were proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Nepal for SAARC Summit.

 Modi had early this month spoken to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif after which it was announced that Jaishankar will visit Islamabad when he will “push bilateral agenda”.  Sharif had welcomed the foreign secretary’s proposed visit “to discuss all issues of common interest”.

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