ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India would not hold a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia ministerial conference being held in Amritsar this weekend (Dec 3-4), officials disclosed.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz is leading the Pakistani delegation to the meeting of the process that focuses on regional cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours for improving connectivity and tackling security threats.

Mr Aziz will visit Amritsar on Sunday.

“For now we don’t see any willingness on their part … the ball is in India’s court, for they know we are willing but we don’t know whether they are willing,” an official speaking on the background told Dawn on Wednesday.

Pakistan and India had at the last Heart of Asia ministerial meeting held in Islamabad 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 attack in January this year.

Relations further deteriorated with the start of uprising in held Kashmir and India put the blame for the Uri military camp attack and infiltration attempts on Pakistan. Things turned worse with the spike in ceasefire violations by India that has left about 53 people dead on the Pakistani side in just two months.

The Pakistan government took a bold decision of attending the Heart of Asia conference despite a deep freeze in ties, even though India had scuttled the Saarc summit that Islamabad was to host in November this year.

Mr Aziz had earlier told journalists in Islamabad: “India sabotaged Saarc, but Pakistan would not do the same.”

An official, meanwhile, denied that Pakistan had formally reached out to India for a bilateral meeting in Amritsar.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner in India Abdul Basit had a few days ago in an interview with an Indian channel hinted at Pakistan’s readiness to talk.

The envoy, while participating in BBC Urdu’s ‘Facebook Live’ interaction on Wednesday, again said Pakistan was ready for unconditional resumption of dialogue.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is also not attending the Heart of Asia ministerial meeting. She will be represented by Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar at the regional conference.

“Since Sushma Swaraj is not attending, it’s difficult to have a meeting with anyone else,” another Pakistani diplomat said.

The Pakistani side believes that the way out of the current stalemate in ties is India giving up its intransigence. “India has to make up its mind. They are not willing to discuss Kashmir,” the official said. He said there was no hope of resumption of dialogue for now as the Modi government continued to be driven by “elections compulsions and RSS agenda”.

Published in Dawn December 1st, 2016