Bisaria with Imran Khan a few days after his election victory

Pakistan had denied membership to Indian diplomats as it wanted same facilities as those provided by Islamabad Club for its own envoys in Delhi. India maintains that the clubs in Delhi are private and the government had practically no influence with them

NEW DELHI: For over 9 months, membership applications of Indian diplomats, including that of Indian high commissioner Ajay Bisaria, gathered dust at the prestigious Islamabad Club with Pakistan’s interior ministry choosing not to give its approval. But now, with a new government in place in Islamabad, India and Pakistan seem close to resolving the vexed issue which had fanned further the flames of hostility witnessed earlier this year over harassment of diplomats in both the national capitals.

TOI has learnt that Pakistan is likely to finally issue no objection certificates for membership applications of Indian diplomats. Sources here said the approval was "in process".

If the approval does come, it will be seen as another sign of efforts by both sides to build some confidence in relations in the absence of any formal dialogue process. After Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan reached out, his counterpart Narendra Modi responded by underscoring India's commitment to "meaningful and constructive" engagement with the country.

Islamabad Club remains the favourite meeting point for all foreign diplomats based in Pakistan's capital. The government had to repeatedly take up the issue with Islamabad as denying membership to Indian diplomats betrayed discrimination against them in an already hostile environment.

Pakistan had blocked membership for Indian diplomats seeking similar facilities at Delhi Golf Club and Delhi Gymkhana, and at the same price, for its own diplomats. India, however, has continued to maintain that these are private clubs with which the government has practically no influence.

India and Pakistan are hoping to soon resolve other issues related to the treatment of diplomats. They have successfully worked to minimise incidents of harassment since the elections in Pakistan. Earlier this year, both the nations had revived a 1992 code of conduct meant to ensure that no diplomatic staff faced any form of harassment or intimidation.

The diplomat harassment issue for India and the new government in Pakistan is effectively the first hurdle in bilateral ties which they can ill-afford to fail at. Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi are expected to attend the SAARC and Commonwealth meetings on the sidelines of UNGA later this month and the possibility of at least a pull aside is not ruled out yet.

India though remains concerned about, as an official put it, Pakistan’s excessive focus on Kashmir which may lead to yet another showdown between the two countries at the UNGA.

Pakistan, however, seems to be suggesting that a "reiteration" of its position on the J&K dispute should not be seen as an act of fresh hostility.

India is also in touch with Pakistan over the issue of Hamid Ansari, the Indian software engineer who has been lodged in a Pakistani jail since 2015. His jail terms ends later this year and India is hoping that he will be repatriated by December.