A DAY before External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj heads to Nepal for the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting, Pakistan is learnt to have approached India through diplomatic channels to schedule a meeting between her and Pakistan PM’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz.
The meeting between Swaraj and Aziz has been proposed for March 17, according to highly-placed sources, and though there has not been any confirmation from the Indian side, it is expected to take place during their stay in Pokhara (Nepal).
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Sources said Aziz has taken the initiative, as he will be handing over the invitation from Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif to PM Narendra Modi for the SAARC summit, which is expected to be held in November this year. Aziz will be meeting foreign ministers of all SAARC countries on the sidelines to extend formal invitations to their respective Heads of Government for the 19th SAARC Summit that will be hosted by Pakistan.
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This will be their first meeting after December 9, when the two countries had announced resumption of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue in Islamabad.
On the sidelines, a meeting between foreign secretaries S Jaishankar and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry is also being explored, Pakistan government sources indicated. However, the Indian side had not confirmed a meeting till Monday night.
The dialogue process has been adversely impacted after the Pathankot terror attack on January 2 this year, shortly after Modi made a surprise visit to Lahore on December 25.
While the official reason being given for the meeting is to extend the invitation for the SAARC summit, sources said this would provide an opportunity for the two sides to exchange notes on the road ahead.
A visit by the Special Investigation Team from Pakistan is widely expected to take place after the modalities of their travel and agenda is finalised.
The National Security Advisors have been in touch with each other and New Delhi wants to see a “credible” action to be taken by Pakistan, before the two sides can take a step forward.
About the Sushma-Aziz meeting, the Pakistan Foreign ministry Monday said that Aziz “will meet Foreign Ministers of SAARC countries on the sidelines of the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting on March 17, 2016, in Nepal to extend Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s formal invitation to their respective Heads of State/Heads of Government for the 19th SAARC Summit, being hosted by Pakistan in Islamabad this year”.