ISLAMABAD: Experts, former officials and retired diplomats from Pakistan and India met here over the past three days for the Neemrana Dialogue — a Track-II initiative.

The meetings were held from April 28 to 30.

Neemrana Dialogue is one of the oldest Track-II initiatives between India and Pakistan, which has Western origins and whose first meeting was held in Neemrana Fort in Rajasthan, India, in October 1991 with the United States Information Service sponsorship.

Neemrana Dialogue meetings did not take place over the past few years as ties between the two neighbours dipped to new lows. The latest meeting, therefore, marked the revival of the process. It was particularly important that the Indian delegation travelled to Pakistan for the meeting.

The meeting, therefore, renewed hopes that the dialogue could lead to further improvements in bilateral relationship.

According to the Indian media, the Indian side besides others included senior former diplomats Vivek Katju and Rakesh Sood. Mr Katju is considered to be close to the BJP government.

Former foreign minister Inam-ul-Haq and former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Husain were reportedly part of the Pakistani delegation.

Although Neemrana Dialogue is one of the over a dozen Track-II initiatives between the two estranged neighbours, its importance lies in the fact that it gets recognition from the foreign ministries of both countries. Even this time round, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua hosted a dinner for the participants of the dialogue on Friday.

There was no official statement by the organisers at the conclusion of the dialogue. A set of recommendations would be submitted to the Foreign Office here and the Indian External Affairs Ministry in Delhi.

A diplomatic observer in Islamabad said the holding of the meeting was a good sign and vindicates Pakistani stance that both sides should keep their channels of communication open. India, he noted, had been obstructing the bilateral dialogue and did not encourage Track-II and other similar initiatives.

He believed that things would not change unless there was a shift in the Modi government’s position on not engaging with Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2018

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