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India, Pakistan revive backchannel talks – Economic Times

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NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan on Friday revived Track II diplomacy with a meet in Islamabad, the first one since the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.

The two-day talks will be attended by Pakistani foreign ministry officials along with former envoys of both countries among others, people familiar with the development said. It comes ahead of a formal dialogue between the two sides on the Kartarpur corridor on Sunday.

The second round of Track II talks — or, informal and unofficial backchannel diplomacy — will be held in Delhi.

The Track II dialogue — or, informal and unofficial backchannel diplomacy — has been organised by the Regional Peace Institute (RPI), Pakistan.

RPI chief Raoof Hasan said it is a way forward for improving relations between the two governments, which have been lukewarm after the high-tension standoff following India’s airstrike on Balakot terror camps in retaliation to Pulwama attack in late February.

Experts from the two countries discussed a number of issues including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, cross-border terrorism, and the regional situation, people familiar with the matter told ET. After the dialogue, the two sides would present their proposals to their government for consideration, the sources said.

The original Track-II initiative — the Neemrana Dialogue —was first held in 1991-1992. The two countries revived it when an Indian side led by former foreign ministry secretary Vivek Katju visited Islamabad last year. The Pakistani side included former minister Javed Jabbar among others.

The Neemrana Dialogue included influential former diplomats, military veterans and academics, who had the unofficial backing from the respective governments.

Earlier when asked whether the dialogue had the government’s backing, external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said there was no change in India’s “clear and consistent” policy towards Pakistan.

“There is no dilution in our position that talks and terror cannot go together,” he said.

Incidentally, the Track II dialogue is happening ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s USA trip, which is expected to cover among other issues regional peace.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has turned down India’s request to open its airspace for commercial flights, saying it will not lift the restrictions until New Delhi removes its fighter jets from forward Indian Air Force airbases.

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