India diplomat S. Jaishankar to visit Pakistan shortly: officials

NEW DELHI: India’s foreign secretary will travel to Pakistan as part of a regional tour in coming months, an official said Friday, the first high-level visit since relations between the arch rivals soured last year.

S. Jaishankar will travel to Islamabad where “India will push its agenda” during bilateral meetings with officials, foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said at a briefing.

“The foreign secretary will visit all SAARC countries including Pakistan,” Akbaruddin told reporters without giving specific dates and referring to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Akbaruddin did not say whether the visit would likely result in peace talks resuming between the foreign secretaries of the nuclear-armed neighbours talks which India abruptly cancelled last year.

Relations have soured between the neighbours over increased firing along their borders and India halting the talks in August enraged that Pakistan consulted Kashmiri separatist leaders before the dialogue began.

US Secretary of State John Kerry last month appealed to both nations to resume the talks, saying Washington was “deeply concerned” about a surge in violence on the border in Kashmir.

News of the visit came hours after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi phoned his Pakistani counterpart to wish his cricket team good luck ahead of a World Cup grudge match between the rivals.

Modi said “cricket connects people in our region and promotes goodwill” after speaking with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other South Asian leaders whose country’s teams are playing in the World Cup starting Saturday.