Sartaj Aziz arrives in Amritsar for Heart of Asia conference, no clarity on bilateral talks

Sartaj Aziz arrives in Amritsar for Heart of Asia conference, no clarity on bilateral talks

Sartaj Aziz, leading the Pakistani delegation to the meeting of the Heart of Asia conference, was received at the Amritsar airport by Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit.

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Pakistan Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.

Amid heightened tensions, Pakistani Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz arrived here tonight to attend the Heart of Asia conference with speculation rife whether the two sides will hold bilateral talks on sidelines of the conclave to break the ice in ties. Aziz was earlier scheduled to arrive here tomorrow but came a day early for the conference. There was no clarity on whether there will be a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the conference.

Interestingly, in a goodwill gesture, Aziz sent a bouquet to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, extending his “sincere good wishes for her full and speedy recovery” from illness. Swaraj, undergoing treatment for renal failure, is not attending the Heart of Asia conference and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will head the Indian delegation at the ministerial deliberations. Aziz, who arrived here on a special flight, was received at the airport by Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit.

Pakistan and India had held a meeting during last year’s Heart of Asia Summit in Islamabad during which both countries had agreed to start ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ that was to cover all outstanding issues. The resumption of the dialogue could, however, not take place due to the Pathankot terror attack in January. Earlier this week, Basit had said Pakistan was ready for unconditional resumption of dialogue if India was ready.

India had already made it clear that it will never accept continuing cross border terrorism as the ‘new normal’ in bilateral ties with Pakistan while making it clear that talks cannot take place in an atmosphere of “continued terror”. The tensions between the two countries escalated after the cross border terror attack on an army base in Nagrota. It is speculated that Aziz arrived ahead of the schedule due to prevailing weather condition. Almost entire northern India has been affected by thick cover of fog for last two days, delaying flights and trains services.

India will step up drive to corner Pakistan diplomatically and is set to mobilise support for concrete action against state-sponsored terror at the two-day conference beginning here at this holy town tomorrow. Afghanistan, which has also been witnessing increased attacks from terror groups operating from Pakistani soil, isset to push hard for a regional counter-terror framework with “binding” commitment during the annual HoA conference, a platform set up in 2011 to assist the war-ravaged country in its transition.