Taking ties with Pakistan forward has been most challenging, says Swaraj

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that taking forward ties with Pakistan has been her most challenging task, while detailing the NDA Government’s foreign policy initiatives over the last 18 months.

Addressing the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) here on Friday, Swaraj said, “Ties with Pakistan have predictably been the most challenging to take forward. However, recent NSA-level dialogue on security and terrorism and the establishment of a comprehensive bilateral dialogue following my visit to Islamabad now offers our pathway.”

Bilateral dialogue between the two nations hit a roadblock last year when India called off foreign secretary-level talks after Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Kashmiri separatist leaders despite New Delhi voicing its objections.

This year, pre-scheduled NSA-level talks were also called off for the same reason, as well as for Islamabad’s insistence that all issues, including Kashmir be taken up for discussion, rather than limiting the exercise to a discussion on terrorism alone.

Talks resumed earlier this month when the national security advisors of both the nations held a “secret meeting” in Bangkok, Thailand.

Swaraj took the bilateral dialogue a step ahead by visiting Pakistan last week and holding talks with her counterpart Sartaj Aziz and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference.

Swaraj said that India’s relations with all major powers, including the United States, Russia, Japan, Britain and Germany have improved ever since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government came to power.

“China has been engaged with a greater sense of confidence whether it is on the boundary problem or on exploiting economic growth. With Russia we have deepened an already robust strategic partnership. As for Japan all of you would have recognized the significance of the bullet train understanding as much as the conclusion of the civil nuclear cooperation negotiations,” she said.

“The strengthening of the relationship with the US is evident in President Obama’s visit on January 26. The resolution of the nuclear liability problem and our working together on global issues with key European powers like France, Germany, UK our security and economic cooperation has expanded visibly,” she added.

During President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January this year, the two countries sealed deals to unlock billions of dollars in nuclear trade and deepen defence ties, and Obama pledged USD four billion in financial backing to release the “untapped potential” of a partnership between the world’s largest democracies.

Modi came to power in May 2014 after a sweeping victory in the general elections, removing the decade-long Congress regime. (ANI)