POKHARA: Adviser to the Prime Minister 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, ANI reported.
The two dignitaries then held a one-to-one meeting in the evening, the first after the Jan 2 terrorist attack on the Pathankot air base.
Pathankot JIT to reach India on Mar 27
Talking to media after the meeting, Swaraj said a Pakistani joint investigation team probing the Pathankot terror attack will visit India on March 27 and begin work the next day, the Hindustan Times reported.
She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had accepted Aziz's invitation to attend the Saarc Summit in Islamabad in November this year.
Aziz, meanwhile, expressed hope that Modi and Sharif will meet in Washington on March 31, on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit.
“I hope both prime ministers will meet on March 31,” he said, but went on to add he was not sure if “a structured dialogue between the two leaders will take place.”
Earlier today, 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 exchanged pleasantries at a dinner hosted by Nepali Prime Minister K.P. 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 is willing to discuss all issues, including the Pathankot attack, with his Indian counterpart.
On sidelines of the meeting, the adviser will extend 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.
Diplomats in their private discussions with Dawn, however, cautioned against raising expectations and said that till now the agenda of Swaraj-Sartaj meeting is limited to delivering the summit invitation, but the two may speak about how to proceed further with the agreed dialogue by overcoming the impasse created by the Pathankot attack.