(This was originally posted in The Indian Express by SHUBHAJIT ROY)
Foreign ministers of India and Pakistan will participate in a key meeting on Afghanistan, to be held in Dushanbe on Tuesday, along with about 30 countries and a dozen regional and international organisations. On Monday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar reached Tajikistan’s capital for the meeting.
Sources, however, said no bilateral meeting has been scheduled so far between the two foreign ministers. But since Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmoud Qureshi will be in the same meeting room — and given the thaw in relation with last month’s recommitment to the 2003 ceasefire — sources did not rule out a meeting.
This will be the first time since the decision to adhere to the ceasefire that the two foreign ministers will come face-to-face. On Sunday, Qureshi had said that no meeting in Tajikistan had so far been “finalised or requested” with his Indian counterpart.
A few days ago, Jaishankar too said no meeting had been scheduled with Qureshi in Tajikistan. “My scheduling is in progress. So far, I do not think any such meeting [is scheduled],” he had said on March 26 at the India Economic Conclave in New Delhi. On Monday, Jaishankar held separate talks with his counterparts from Iran and Turkey. He also met Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.
The External Affairs Minister described his conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif as “warm” and said it covered bilateral cooperation, including the Chabahar port project. “Began my Heart of Asia engagements with a meeting with Iranian FM @JZarif. A warm conversation that underlined our convergences,” Jaishankar tweeted. “Also discussed our bilateral cooperation, including Chabahar.”
About his talks with the Turkish foreign minister, Jaishankar said the discussions focused on Afghanistan-related developments and bilateral relations. Jaishankar also visited the Dushanbe-Chortut highway project site in Tajikistan and lauded India’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for its “good work” there on building an eight-lane highway.