BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - Pakistan and India on Tuesday agreed to quickly draw up a calendar of official-level meetings to get their bilateral peace process, which has lost momentum due to polls that led to a change of government in Pakistan, back on track.

Pakistan also sought an early meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries to provide the necessary political impetus to propel the process.

Both countries agreed to hold a third round of meetings on outstanding bilateral issues in next two to three months.

This was announced after a meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Pakistan Prime Minister’s Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet in the capital of Brunei, a first high-level meeting after the new government in Pakistan took over.

Speaking to media after the meeting, Aziz said “We have reviewed the various steps in the CBMs (confidence-building measures) and in the composite dialogue that has been going on. We discussed ways of fast tracking them, because this is the part both sides want to accelerate, and this (meeting) is in response to that.”

“We have agreed for different groups to meet in the next two to three months. People-to-people contact, visa relaxation regime has already been agreed. Trade meetings will also take place.

“There are number of steps being taken up and we hope that the two PMs (Prime Ministers) can meet hopefully on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September, if not earlier. We are providing great political impetus to this dialogue process,” he said.

On his part, Khurshid said Pakistan has once again extended an invitation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan and he has responded to it warmly.

“Most important is that there is political will on both sides that to take these ties forward. This is important for the relationship and for finding resolution to contentious issues which arise from time to time. First of all, there is a need to take people-to-people contacts forward and to strengthen our institutional contacts,” Khurshid said.

Asserting that the two countries will want to show specific steps moving forward, the Indian External Affairs Minister said, “We are looking for dates for (meetings of the) Joint Working Groups under the Joint Commission in July and August.”

Asked about the 26/11 trial in Pakistan, Khurshid said, “This is what we have discussed, and as I have told you. It is time now to move forward.”

Aziz said that it is necessary that Pakistan and India should discuss all outstanding issues through confidence building measures to ensure lasting peace and security in the region.

Aziz said trade and economic cooperation between the two countries could act as a catalyst and raise the confidence level on both sides that would allow a sustained peace process.

In this regard, the Advisor appreciated the recent visit of the Indian energy mission to Pakistan in which trade in electricity and gas was discussed.

Both ministers also discussed steps that further were needed in this regard.

They also agreed that the Pakistan-India Joint Business Council meeting which had just concluded its session in Islamabad on June 29 was another important mechanism that would help in taking the process forward.

Both expressed the hope that the bilateral dialogue process also between Pakistan and India would be resumed with holding of different meetings in next few months.

The Indian External Affairs Minister conveyed greetings from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and expressed his government’s desire to engage with Pakistan on all issues and work improving bilateral relations.

Reciprocating the warm sentiments of the Indian EAM, Aziz informed him that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was giving priority at improved relations with India by picking up the threads from the Lahore process of 1999.

Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said that Delhi recognised a role for the Taliban in the peace process in Afghanistan, a departure from its earlier position that shunned a role for the group.

Khurshid said India supported the efforts made by the government of war-torn Afghanistan to establish a dialogue with all armed opposition groups, ‘including the Taliban’.

Khurshid was speaking at the 20th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum—which discusses regional security issues—in the Bruneian capital Bandar Seri Begawan.