AMRITSAR: Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz on Saturday had a brief encounter with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of a regional conference to be held in Indian province of Punjab.
According to Geo News, the Prime Minister’s Adviser shook hands with Modi at a dinner hosted by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and attended by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and representatives from different states and international observers.
“How is Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif doing,” asked the Indian prime minister. “Nawaz Sharif Sahib is fine and conveys well wishes to you,” responded Sartaj Aziz. Geo News reported that the Indian prime minister asked the Adviser to convey his Salam and good wishes to his Pakistani counterpart.
Sartaj Aziz is in India to attend Heart of Asia Conference that will focus on regional cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours and to intensify efforts for durable peace in the war-ravaged country.
Earlier upon his arrival, he was received by Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and joint secretary of Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
Pakistan role in Afghan peace
“Pakistan has always had key significance and played an important role with regard to peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit said, while speaking to media in Amritsar.
He added the foreign advisor’s address with the regional summit tomorrow will be pivotal to Afghanistan and there is no exclusive meeting scheduled between India and Pakistan on the sideline of the conference. All focus will be on Afghanistan.
Heart of Asia Process
On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister and Afghan President jointly inaugurated 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 cooperation.
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.
Aziz’s early departure
Sartaj arrived in India ahead of schedule on Saturday instead of Sunday. The sudden change in schedule has been seen as part of last-minute efforts for talks with India on the sidelines of Heart of Asia conference.
Sources at Pakistan Foreign Office, however, said Aziz departed early in view of weather conditions.
The regional moot began on Saturday in Amritsar with foreign secretary session held on its first day.
Geo News has learnt that Sartaj Aziz, on the sidelines of the regional moot, will hold meetings with PM Narendra and representatives from other member states.
His meeting with Afghan representatives at the Heart of Asia conference is being seen as vital to the bilateral ties between the two countries in coming days.
The conference has been taking place at a time of heightened tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours over Kashmir and continuing skirmishes at the border.
Earlier on Thursday, FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria said that Pakistan, despite India’s negativity in scuttling SAARC, would attend the Heart of Asia Conference due to its commitment to Afghanistan’s peace and stability.
He added that Pakistan would not accept any pre-conditions for holding dialogue with India.
Zakaria said, “The current phase of indigenous self-determination movement in Indian occupied Kashmir had entered into the fifth month and was continuing in the face of worst violations of human rights of defenceless Kashmiris at the hands of Indian occupation forces.”
Pakistan High Commission in Delhi falls prey to India cash crunch
Earlier on Saturday, Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi fell prey to India cash crunch as banks refused to grant Indian currency to its staffers in return for dollars.
Pakistan has lodged a protest with Indian Ministry for External Affairs saying this treatment of diplomatic staff was in ‘sheer violation of the Vienna Convention’.