Advisor to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Saturday arrived in Amritsar to participate in the Heart of Asia Conference, where he also attended a banquet hosted in honour of representatives from different states and international observers.
The dinner was hosted for the visiting dignitaries at a heritage village named ‘Sadda Pind (our village)’ located on the outskirts of Amritsar.
Indian Premier Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also attended the banquet hosted by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Sartaj Aziz shook hands with PM Narendra Modi, where the latter inquired him about Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Aziz conveyed PM Sharif’s best wishes to Narendra Modi, which the Indian premier reciprocated with his well wishes for his Pakistani counterpart.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Saturday reached Amritsar, India, to represent Pakistan in the Heart of Asia Conference amid escalating tensions between the two neighbours. The Adviser reached Amritsar via a special flight along with his delegation after a change in his schedule due to weather conditions. He was earlier scheduled to travel to India on Sunday (today).
Meanwhile speaking to media in Amritsar, Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said, “Pakistan has always had key significance and played an important role with regard to peace and stability in Afghanistan.” He added the foreign advisor’s address with the regional summit on Sunday (today) will be pivotal to Afghanistan.
On Sunday, the Indian Prime Minister and Afghan President will jointly inaugurate the two-day summit being attended by around 40 foreign ministers and dignitaries of 14 participating countries in Indian city of Amritsar. The Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 with the objective to boost economic and security co-operation.
Its members include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. The initiative has the support of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Finland, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the United States.
Our Staff Reporter Ali Hussain from Islamabad adds: According to sources, though both sides have not confirmed any bilateral meeting between Sartaj Aziz and Indian leadership, the sources said there would be a joint call on the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the delegates of the participating countries, which may provide Aziz an opportunity to have a conversation with the Indian premier.
Upon his arrival at Amritsar airport Aziz was received by a joint secretary, ministry of external affairs of India, and Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit as well as other senior officials of High Commission.
Foreign Office also said that Aziz also sent a bouquet to ailing Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to her residence on Saturday evening and extended his sincere good wishes for her full and speedy recovery. Swaraj is being treated at a local hospital for kidney failure.
“Until now there is no bilateral meeting scheduled between the Adviser and the Indian leadership, yet one cannot say anything final as leaders often avail such opportunities to exchange views on bilateral issues,” said a Foreign Office source.
The Adviser’s trip to India is the first high-level visit from Pakistan after the announcement of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue in December last year, which never moved forward in the wake of the Pathankot airbase attack in January.
The September 18, 2016 Uri attack which resulted in the killing of 19 Indian soldiers followed by Indian claims of ‘surgical strikes’ on September 29, 2016 further added to the escalation of tension on Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary.
The two-day conference on Afghanistan opened on Saturday which is being attended by as man as 40 countries and international organisations to deliberate upon various challenges facing Afghanistan, including revival of a peace process in the war-torn country.
On Saturday, according to Indian media reports, senior officials of 14 countries, including Pakistan, India, China, Russia and Iran, and representatives of 17 supporting nations are deliberating on a vast range of issues facing the region including its complex security scenario.
The opening Senior Officials Meeting on Saturday also discussed finalisation of the text for the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia and Istanbul Process, as well as the necessary technical aspects of the declaration for the 6th Ministerial Conference.
Countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates are part of the Heart of Asia initiative launched in 2011 for encouraging economic and security co-operation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for dealing with the common problems of terrorism, extremism and poverty. The process is supported by 17 other, mainly Western, countries and 12 international organisations.