NEW DELHI: India Thursday termed as “normal” the visit of a group of Indian experts to Pakistan to revive Track II diplomacy, but asserted that there was no dilution in its policy towards Islamabad that talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand.
Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said functional exchanges between the two sides have continued and is part of the “normal process” between the two countries.
“This is a meeting between two civil societies, this is a meeting which is part of people to people exchange…There is nothing new in it,” he told reporters, responding to questions on the issue.
The original Track II initiative — the Neemrana Dialogue — received a fresh start with the visit of the group of experts to Islamabad recently.
The Indian side was led by former foreign ministry secretary Vivek Katju, while the Pakistani side included former minister Javed Jabbar among others.
The interactions between the two sides took place between April 28 to 30 in the Pakistani capital, sources in Islamabad had said.
Asked whether the dialogue had the backing of the ministry, Kumar did not give a direct reply, saying it was part of the normal process.
He, however, said there was no change in India’s “clear and consistent” policy towards Pakistan.
“There is no dilution in our position that talks and terror cannot go together,” he said.
Sources in Islamabad said that the experts from two sides discussed a number of issues, including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, terrorism, tensions along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and the regional situation.
They said that the two sides will present their proposals to their government for consideration.
The Neemrana Dialogue was launched in early 1990s and included influential former diplomats, military veterans and academics, who had the unofficial backing from the foreign ministries of the two countries.
The ties between India and Pakistan nose-dived after Pakistan-based terror groups carried out a series of attacks in India in 2016.
India responded to the attacks by carrying out a surgical strike inside Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in September 2016. The death sentence handed down to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav by a military court in Pakistan in April last year caused a further deterioration in ties.
India has been maintaining that it will not engage in talks with Pakistan unless it stops cross-border terrorism.
Asked about the Indus water dispute between the two countries, Kumar said discussions under a laid down framework were going on.