ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and India yesterday set out on a journey to ‘peace’ as Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj landed in the federal capital to end the persistent deadlock.

This is the first visit by an Indian external affairs minister to Pakistan in more than three years. It is also the first significant engagement between the two nuclear-armed nations since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indina counterpart Narendra Modi met in Ufa, Russia, in July.

A dinner hosted by Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz for the delegates of the Afghanistan conference including his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj yesterday set the ball rolling for the Pakistani and Indian leaders’ much-anticipated talks today.

“I have come with the message that ties between the two countries should be good and move forward,” Swaraj said after her arrival in Islamabad.

Aziz too said he was expecting a “good and positive” outcome from the meeting and both sides should take forward the engagement to improve ties. “My expectations are good and positive from talks tomorrow (on Wednesday),” Aziz said, adding, “My message is also that we should take our engagement forward and improve ties.”

Swaraj, accompanied by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, is leading the Indian delegation at the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference on Afghanistan today. She confirmed there would also be meetings with Prime Minister Sharif and Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

The visiting minister said the two countries were talking to each other on the ways to improve their ties and move forward. When asked what message she had brought from India, Swaraj said her country wanted good relations with Pakistan. “I have come with a message of good relations between the two countries,” she added.

The top Indian diplomat will most likely return to her country the same day in the evening, making her visit last not more than 24 hours.

Officials said the two countries had also agreed to a bilateral cricket series. Several ‘soft’ interviews have been given in recent days to rein in the increased tension and escalating animosity between the two countries.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India is especially vulnerable to an attack from activists when Shiv Sena recently stormed the BCCI headquarters before expected talks between the two nations.

The announcement of the bilateral series, to be held in Sri Lanka, is expected along with the confirmation that Pakistan will participate in next year’s World Twenty20 in India, officials here said.

The Indian government officially confirmed on Monday Swaraj would visit Pakistan to attend the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad.

‘Heart of Asia’ – Istanbul Process –was established in 2011 on the initiative of Afghanistan and Turkey. The main objective of the process is to foster efforts for regional cooperation and connectivity with a view to promoting long-term peace and stability as well as progress and development in Afghanistan and the region.

The fifth ministerial conference is expected to adopt a forward-looking Islamabad declaration, entitled ‘Enhanced Cooperation for Countering Security Threats and Promoting Connectivity.’

The declaration would underline commitments from the Heart of Asia member countries and partners for sustained efforts towards promoting peace, security, economic development and connectivity in the region.

Earlier, Prime Minister Sharif’s close aides said he wanted Kashmir on the top of the agenda in dialogue with India. Yesterday, Sharif held a one-on-one meeting with Army Chief Raheel Sharif to discuss his recent meeting with Narendra Modi held in Paris.

Sources said they agreed Kashmir must be highlighted in talks with the visiting Indian minister.

Sartaj Aziz yesterday said Pakistan wanted peace with all its neighbours. He underlined the need for peace and security in the region. “Pakistan is committed to helping its neighbours, including Afghanistan, to ensure a durable peace,” he said.

Addressing senior officials’ meeting, prior to the Heart of Asia conference, Aziz said, “Pakistan wants a durable peace in Afghanistan as instability in that country is not in our interest.”