On December 31, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited India to hold dialogue with Pakistan on all issues, saying the two countries cannot live as enemies.
PM Nawaz expressed optimism that India-Pakistan ties would improve in the days ahead. Nawaz Sharif also said that PM Modi’s Lahore visit will have a positive impact on the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan on unresolved issues.
On December 25, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, during a surprise visit to Pakistan, met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore.
Both leaders decided that as a part of the comprehensive dialogue, the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India will meet in mid-January 2016. The meeting was seen as a positive development but the critics argue that the progress has been slow in addressing the outstanding issues that have strained relations between the two countries.
On December 23, US State Department Spokesman, John Kirby, said that the US believes that India and Pakistan now seem genuinely interested in fostering greater understanding between the two countries.
John Kirby also said that the US continues to encourage any effort that would help improve relations between India and Pakistan. Experts believe that the recent thaw in Pakistan-India relations and the restoration of comprehensive dialogue between the two countries will improve the security environment in the region which is confronted by numerous challenges.
On December 22, Dawn reported that Battalion Commanders of both the Indian and Pakistani armies met in Poonch and acknowledged each other’s efforts in maintaining peace and tranquillity along the Line of Control in the recent past.
The meeting discussed issues, which included ceasefire violations, return of civilians inadvertently crossing the LOC, air space violations and construction activity close to the LOC.
On December 17, Pakistan’s Foreign Office laid stress on uninterrupted and result oriented dialogue with India.
Pakistan and India, during India’s External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad on December 8, had agreed on resuming the dialogue on unsettled issues in their relationship. Analysts say there is a need to have meaningful dialogue covering all outstanding issues between India and Pakistan, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
On December 17, India’s Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj told the Parliament that war is not an option and dialogue is the way forward with Pakistan to fight the ‘shadow of terror’.
Addressing the Parliament on the government plans to resume a dialogue with Pakistan, Sushma Swaraj also acknowledged that Pakistan had arrested the suspects of the Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008 and a trial is underway in Pakistan.
On December 13, Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, visited Turkmenistan and attended the launching ceremony of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas 29 pipeline.
Turkmenistan President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani and Indian Vice President, Hamid Ansari also attended the ceremony. The project is believed to cost approximately $7.6 billion. However, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has warned that the cost of the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline project would go up to $10 billion due to the delay in its implementation. The 1,735 kilometres long gas pipeline will provide 3.2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per annum from Turkmenistan to the other three countries.
On December 14, India’s Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, briefed the Parliament on her Pakistan visit saying that an uninterrupted dialogue was needed with Pakistan despite provocations.
Sushma Swaraj defended India’s decision to start a ‘Comprehensive Dialogue’, saying there was a ‘need for bridging the gulf’ with Islamabad for peace and stability in the region. She said that the continued hostile relations between the two countries were a hurdle to realisation of peace in the region. The minister also said that she had asked Pakistan to speed up the trial process of Mumbai terror attacks.
On December 11, adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, during the National Assembly session said that the bilateral talks with India and Afghanistan held during the ‘Heart of Asia Conference’ would help bring peace and prosperity to the region.
Sartaj Aziz told the legislators that the ‘comprehensive dialogue’ with India would cover all outstanding issues including the issue of Kashmir. On the issue of Afghanistan, adviser to the PM said that Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US have agreed to a formal mechanism to oversee peace efforts in Afghanistan.
On December 11, Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, met with Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. During the meeting, both leaders welcomed the recent developments in Indo-Pak bilateral relations.
The meeting came after India and Pakistan decided to resume the renamed ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ during the sidelines of ‘Heart of Asia’ conference. Both leaders expressed optimism that the recent progress in India-Pak bilateral relations would lead to closer cooperative ties between the two countries. On December 10, Dawn reported that the Pakistani lawmakers expressed their reservations over the outcome of ‘Heart of Asia’ conference, alleging that the joint statement of the Pakistan-India bilateral meeting was tilted in India’s favour. Pakistan has insisted that there cannot be any dialogue with India unless the issue of Kashmir is on the agenda.
On December 9, the US Deputy Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, warned that a terrorist attack in India could spark off a war between Pakistan and India.
With BJP’s rise to power, the relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated sharply, while exacerbating the threat of a serious military confrontation between the two countries. Earlier, in August 2015, the US said that speculation about the potential use of nuclear weapons would not help reduce tensions between India and Pakistan. Observers say the initiation of ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ between India and Pakistan have raised new hopes for ties between the two countries.
On December 9, Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, and the Indian Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, addressed the ‘Heart of Asia’ Conference held in Islamabad.
During the address, Pakistan’s PM Nawaz Sharif promised full support to all efforts for increasing peace in the region with emphasis on stabilising Afghanistan. On the stalled Afghan reconciliation process, PM Nawaz reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to facilitate the Afghan peace process. He also warned over the cross-border movement of refugees and said that it remained a key security challenge. Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani said during his speech at the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference that regional cooperation was needed to end terrorism. Meanwhile, he appreciated Pakistan’s decision to launch operations against militancy, but he also warned that the action had ‘created unintended consequences’ bringing about the disbursement of the militant groups in Afghanistan. Indian Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, in her speech, focused on increased connectivity and regional trade. She also conveyed India’s willingness to join the Afghanistan-Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA). The Indian foreign minister also said that the issue of terrorism constitutes a major challenge for achieving peace in Afghanistan and said India was ready to help Afghanistan strengthen its defence capabilities.
On December 9, Pakistan and India agreed to restart dialogue on outstanding issues but now under a new title of Comprehensive Dialogue, ending a two-year long stalemate.
This was announced by the Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, after her meetings with Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and Adviser on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, on the sidelines of Heart of Asia ministerial conference held at Islamabad. The development is seen as a significant thaw in the two countries’ bitter relationship, with India agreeing to start a dialogue process that would include Jammu and Kashmir and Islamabad assuring the Indian government of expediting the trial of the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan has long pressed India that any talks between India and Pakistan should include Kashmir, which has remained a key concern for Pakistan. The resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan will now include discussion on peace and security, CBMs, Jammu & Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and counter terrorism.
On December 6, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Lt. General (R) Nasir Janjua, met with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval, in Bangkok.
According to a joint statement, both NSAs’ discussed peace and security, terrorism, LOC and Jammu & Kashmir issues during a meeting. The meeting was also attended by the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India. The NSA level meeting followed the Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi meeting in Paris during the Climate Change Summit. Observers say the resumption of dialogue between the two countries is a major breakthrough. Earlier, in August 2015, the meeting between the two NSA’s was cancelled after India attached pre-conditions on the talks, insisting that the Pakistani NSA could not meet the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leaders.
On December 3, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Qazi Khalilullah, said that comments by the Indian envoy in Afghanistan on the meeting between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Paris breached diplomatic norms.
Earlier, on December 2, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Amar Sinha stated that “mere statements are of no help to Afghan peace talks”. The envoy also raised doubts over Pakistan’s sincerity in promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The diplomatic protocol does not permit a foreign envoy to comment publicly about his host’s relations with a third country.
On December 2, President Mamnoon Hussain said that an aggressive military doctrine in the region had led to increased import of high-tech military equipment, which might disturb the existing balance of power, adding that Pakistan needed to improve its economy and strengthen its defence capabilities as it would help the country address the internal and external challenges.
Islamabad remains concerned over India’s military modernisation plans, which has added to a growing disparity between the Indian and Pakistani conventional military capabilities. Experts believe that India’s military expansion and its modernisation ambitions are increasingly causing concern among the other regional countries, Earlier, on December 2, President Mamnoon said that Pakistan has not been able to exploit its full potential in defence related exports due to weak marketing strategies. Despite economic constraints, Pakistan aims to strengthen existing defence partnerships and attract new buyers.