Islamabad/New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be meeting her Pakistan counterpart Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of SAARC ministerial meeting on March 17 in Nepal.
Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said in Islamabad that Aziz will meet Foreign Ministers of 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.
When asked about the meeting between the two leaders, sources in New Delhi said, “Aziz had sought a meeting to extend the invitation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the 19th SAARC Summit and India in all likelihood will go ahead with the meeting.” However, they did not divulge what will be the issues that India will discuss.
This will be the second meeting between Swaraj and Aziz after December 9 when the two countries announced resumption of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue (CBD).
Zakaria 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.”
Aziz and Swaraj will be in Pokhara for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Council of Foreign Ministers’ meeting on March 16 and 17.
Quoting diplomatic sources, The Express Tribune newspaper in Pakistan reported that India and Pakistan were exploring the possibility of a meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries in the Nepalese tourist city of Pokhara.
Islamabad was ready to resume the dialogue at any time, and was also open to a meeting between Aziz and Swaraj in Nepal, a senior Pakistani official said on the condition of anonymity.
Swaraj-Aziz meeting will also provide an opportunity to the two sides to discuss the much-delayed talks between the foreign secretaries, who were to meet in Islamabad in January.
The key foreign secretary-level talks are meant to draw up a roadmap for a series of meetings between the two countries on a range of issues, including Kashmir, peace and security, Siachen, Sir Creek, water, and trade and commerce.
The efforts to resume the CBD hit a deadlock after a suicide attack on Pathankot Airbase that India has said was carried out by militants from Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Muhammad.
The Swaraj-Aziz meeting may also discuss the possibility of an interaction between Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi later this month in Washington where they are scheduled to attend the nuclear security summit being hosted by US President Barack Obama.