Former Indian diplomats left for Pakistan

March 29th, 2008 - 2:57 pm ICT by admin  

By Gulshan Luthra
New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) A 10-member delegation of former Indian diplomats has left here for Islamabad as part of bilateral track two efforts towards building friendship with Pakistan. Led by Ishrat Aziz, president of the Association of Indian Diplomats (AID), the delegation left Friday night.

They are scheduled to meet Pakistan’s foreign secretary, chairman of the senate foreign relations committee, and governor of Punjab and possibly some members of the newly elected government.

The visit is being viewed as a “new contact” in the plethora of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) already under way towards creating good diplomatic and economic relations.

The visit is at the invitation of the Association of Former Diplomats (AFA) of Pakistan, which had sent a delegation to India in 2005.

But the timing now, with the installation of the new democratically elected government, is significant as this will be India’s first contact - albeit informal - with the new political dispensation.

The visit has the blessings of both governments. A meeting with Pakistan’s new foreign minister - if appointed - is also on the cards.

“The people of Pakistan had elected and welcomed the new democratic government, and so should we and other countries,” Aziz told IANS.

Pakistan is an important neighbour and realistic and strong bilateral ties would be in the interest of both the countries, said Aziz, a former Indian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and other countries.

R. Rajagopalan, AID secretary, said the Indian delegates would also hold a daylong session with the Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) of Pakistan.

The ISS had signed an agreement recently with the Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) for exchange of publications and attendance at conferences.

“That agreement was in itself a milestone in building strategic bridges,” said Rajagopalan, former ambassador to Morocco, who is also a member of the IDSA executive council.

Another important engagement on the delegation’s list is a meeting with the Lahore Chamber of Commerce, whose members are keen for trade through the land route.

Knowledgeable diplomatic sources described this “outside the box contact” as a very useful addition to the confidence building measures being attempted between the two neighbours.

This linkage is informal, but as it is a contact between well-informed retired diplomats of the two countries, its usefulness cannot be underestimated, the sources added.

They said the diplomats on both sides have spent a lifetime on bilateral and foreign relations and thus are definitely in the opinion-forming strata of their countries.

Also, as the contact is informal, members involved on both sides would be relaxed in dealing with a number of issues in an unencumbered atmosphere, they added.

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