External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will not attend the Heart of Asia (HoA) conference in Amritsar next week due to illness even as the government remained non-committal about a possible Indo-Pakistan bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the event.
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However, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup reiterated India’s stated position that though the country is for dialogue but “talks and terror cannot go hand-in-hand”, when asked if there will be a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the conference on Afghanistan which is being attended by Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz.
“Our position on it (talks) is very very clear from the beginning. We are for a dialogue with Pakistan. But talks and terror cannot happen together. It is incumbent on Pakistan to create the necessary environment for a conducive bilateral dialogue to happen,” he said and also referred to Swaraj’s address at the UN recently that for talks to take place, Islamabad will have to end terrorism.
Asked whether Swaraj will attend the conference, he said “The External Affairs Minister will not be able to attend.”
Swaraj is undergoing treatment for kidney failure.
On being persistently questioned about the possibility of an Indo-Pak bilateral meet, Swarup said, “The programme is still evolving. The associated events connected with the conference are in a process of evolving. At this point, I am not in a position to make any other announcement.”
When pressed further, the MEA Spokesperson said the programme was in a “fluid state” and he was not in a position to rule in or rule out anything at this stage.
The conference, which will be addressed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, will be attended by representatives of over 40 countries.