Indian Foreign Secretary, S. Jaishankar, has arrived in Pakistan for a two-day visit during which he is also expected to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Since the visit is part of what Delhi has termed “SAARC Yatra”, it is fair to assume that Mr S. Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Chaudhary will discuss a broad range of issues including those raised by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the SAARC summit in 2014. Expectations are low because dialogue between the two countries has remained suspended as India cancelled scheduled secretaries’ dialogue in August, which were necessary to lay the ground for a breakthrough at this point. Instead, the focus would be on paving the way for resumption of dialogue; what officials are describing as “talks for talks”.

A lot has changed since PM Sharif visited Delhi to attend PM Modi’s inauguration ceremony. PM Sharif was then attempting to implement his foreign policy vision, but lack of reciprocity from Delhi significantly undermined his efforts. Political instability further weakened PM Sharif’s standing. Now, the military is back in control of foreign policy and Mr Sharif feels that he cannot afford to offer much resistance especially when there is no guarantee that Mr Modi would play ball. Recent months have seen numerous incidents of cross-border firing along the LoC, which may be discussed during the ongoing talks. Such incidents threaten the ceasefire in place, which is critical to maintain for the peace of both countries.

If there is one thing that ought to come out of this exchange, it should be the promise of consistent, sustained dialogue. It is clear that the situation in Afghanistan requires cooperation from both Pakistan and India. Delhi must accept that Pakistan’s role cannot be undermined and it would have to work with it on the issue of Afghanistan. Proxy wars and spy games, as it should be clear by now, will not benefit anyone and only contribute to worsening of the security crisis faced by the region. The talks should also focus on boosting business and trade between the two countries as there is a lot that they stand to gain through cooperation and social exchanges.

It would be in error to keep talks solely focused on either cross-border terrorism or Jammu and Kashmir. These issues have to be a part of a broader exchange to ensure that they don’t become a stumbling block as always. In any case, the two Foreign Secretaries should search for common ground in consideration of the ground realities in Pakistan and India. This could be a start - a slow, difficult start to a long, difficult journey.