Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit neighbouring Pakistan to participate in a regional summit in 2016. India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is in Islamabad on a two-day visit, made the announcement and said that the meeting will be aimed at improving ties between the two troubled neighbours.
Swaraj told reporters on 9 December that she would accompany Modi to Pakistan, who would participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) conference to be held in 2016. She is the first Indian foreign minister to visit the country since 2012, and one of the first to travel to Pakistan from the right-wing government led by Modi.
Swaraj is participating in the Heart of Asia ministerial-level conference on Afghanistan. Speaking at the meeting, she said: "Let me take this opportunity to extend our hand to Pakistan as well. It is time that we display the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and cooperation. The entire world is waiting and rooting for a change. Let us not disappoint them."
"For its part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with. But today, let us at least resolve to help Afghanistan – in the best traditions of good neighbourliness – through more effective transit arrangements."
She was accompanied by top diplomats including India's foreign secretary S Jaishankar and New Delhi's High Commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan. Swaraj will hold talks with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz later in the day.
Following a brief handshake with Swaraj at the Asian summit, Sharif told the conference: "Working for the achievement of a peaceful neighbourhood is a cardinal principal of Pakistan's foreign policy. We firmly believe that peace is vital for development, and development is vital for durable peace."
Swaraj's trip was finalised after National Security Advisors of both countries met in Bangkok, Thailand. Bilateral tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals remain high as the two sides blame each other for stonewalling negotiations.