POKHARA (Staff Report) – Adviser to PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Thursday formally extended an invitation to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the Pakistan-hosted 19th Saarc summit which is to be held later this year.
Sartaj handed the invitation over to Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the 37th Saarc Council of Ministers Meeting, according to the reports in Indian media.
The two dignitaries also held a one-to-one meeting on Thursday evening, the first after the Jan 2 terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base, and bilateral issues will be part of the discussion, the ANI reported.
Earlier on Thursday, the two ministers met over breakfast on the sidelines of the ministers meeting, Hindustan Times reported.
Sartaj and Swaraj chatted while sitting next to each other at the breakfast hosted by Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa. They were also seen standing separately and talking informally for a few minutes.
On Wednesday night, the two dignitaries exchanged pleasantries at a dinner hosted by Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. The two were seated next to each other and talked at length.
Aziz arrived in the Nepalese tourist city of Pokhara on Wednesday, where the Saarc Council of Foreign Ministers is meeting for reviewing the progress made by the regional grouping over the past year and setting direction for the next year.
Upon his arrival in Nepal, Aziz said he was willing to discuss all issues, including the Pathankot attack, with his Indian counterpart.
On sidelines of the meeting, the adviser extended invites for the Saarc summit being hosted by Pakistan this year.
There are speculations that the meeting between Aziz and Swaraj could help in scheduling the meeting of the foreign secretaries of the two countries that was agreed in December for deciding the timeline and modalities of the bilateral dialogue, but could not be held because of Pathankot attack.
Pakistan and India had agreed to resume their peace talks under the newly-coined phrase of Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue during Swaraj’s visit to Islamabad for attending the Heart of Asia Conference last year.