Amritsar: Sartaj Aziz, advisor to Pakistan prime minister on foreign affairs, arrived in Amritsar on Saturday for the Heart of Asia ministerial conference a day ahead than earlier expected, people familiar with the developments said.
Aziz was welcomed at the Amritsar airport by Pakistan’s high commissioner in India, Abdul Basit.
According to a statement from the Pakistani high commission in New Delhi, Aziz sent a bouquet of flowers to India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to wish her good health. Swaraj is on dialysis and expected to undergo a kidney transplant soon.
Aziz was previously expected to reach Amritsar on Sunday to participate in the Heart of Asia ministerial conference aimed at making Afghanistan economically stable.
Aziz arrived by a special flight, said the person cited above who also added that Aziz was expected to attend the dinner hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for all the participants for the sixth Heart of Asia ministerial conference.
The change in plans was necessitated by due to weather conditions in India, it is being speculated. A thick fog has enveloped northern India for the past several days delaying flights and trains services. Fog on Sunday morning in Amritsar could have delayed Aziz’s arrival.
The one day Heart of Asia ministerial conference, set to start on Sunday morning, is expected to discuss among other issues a regional counter-terrorism strategy that will place binding commitments on Pakistan to curb terrorism.
Afghanistan blames Pakistan for supporting the Taliban insurgents who have made a remarkable comeback in recent years after being ousted from Kabul in 2001.
India on its part blames Pakistan for terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of India.
Given the tensions between India and Pakistan, any bilateral meeting between the two sides seems unlikely.
Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman Nafees Zakaria this week said the agenda for Aziz’s visit was mainly Afghanistan.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup also ruled out a bilateral meeting between the two sides.
There has been a surge in tensions between India and Pakistan since July when Pakistan described a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist killed by Indian troops in Kashmir as a “leader” and a “martyr”. A terrorist attack on an Indian army garrison in September that killed 19 soldiers only frayed ties further. India retaliated with “surgical strikes” against six to eight terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on 29 September. Though Pakistan denied the strikes took place, there have been multiple violations of the 2003 ceasefire since then. The tensions have been further aggravated by an attack on Tuesday by terrorists at an army garrison in India’s Nagrota town.
At a press briefing in New Delhi on Thursday, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup reiterated that terrorism and talks cannot go hand in hand.
Terrorism cannot be the normal in bilateral relations, Swarup said.