Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said she was extending India’s hand to Pakistan and both countries should show the maturity and confidence to improve ties, The News repors.
“Let me take this opportunity to extend our hand to Pakistan as well. It is time that we display the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and cooperation,” said Swaraj at the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad. “The entire world is waiting and rooting for a change. Let us not disappoint them,” she said.
“For its part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with. But today, let us at least resolve to help Afghanistan – in the best traditions of good neighbourliness – through more effective transit arrangements,” she said. Calling for improved trade relations between Indian and Afghanistan, Swaraj said that it would boost the bilateral relations between the two nations
“The ‘Heart of Asia’ cannot function if arteries are clogged. Nothing can benefit Afghanistan more immediately than full and direct overland access to India’s markets to enable it to take advantage of the zero-duty regime available to its exports to India,” Swaraj said.
“Similarly, if Afghan trucks could carry Indian products to markets in Afghanistan and Central Asia, that would be the best way to make trucking from Afghanistan cost-effective and viable, and bestow benefits to the whole region. India is willing to receive Afghan trucks on its territory at Attari and create necessary facilities for Afghan products there,” she added.
The arrival of the Indian foreign minister in Pakistan marks the highest-level visit from New Delhi since 2012 and is seen by observers as a sign of improving ties between the two countries.
The ‘Heart of Asia’ meeting, an annual gathering of Asian and other countries to pledge support to Afghanistan, is being hosted for the first time in Islamabad and is being attended by representatives from ten different countries.