Sartaj Aziz to visit India, hints at easing tension

Islamabad, Nov 16 (IANS) Pakistan´s foreign policy chief, Sartaj Aziz, has said he will travel to India early next month for the Heart of Asia Conference, describing it as a “good opportunity to defuse the tension” between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

“Unlike India, that had sabotaged the Saarc summit in Pakistan by pulling out, Pakistan will respond by participating in the Heart of Asia being held in Amritsar, India, on December 3,” confirmed Aziz to PTV news on Tuesday.

The adviser said he himself will participate in the conference.

Aziz, however, said it has not been confirmed yet whether he will meet his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the conference or not.

“Despite the fact that Indian forces killed our seven soldiers along the Line of Control on Monday, Pakistan will not boycott the conference,” Aziz maintained.

Aziz’s trip to India would be the first by a senior Pakistani official since terrorists attacked an army camp in Uri, in Jammu and Kashmir, on September 18, killing 19 soldiers. India has blamed the attack on Pakistan-based terrorists.

India retaliated with cross-border “surgical strikes on terror launch pads” later in September, and claimed several casualties. Islamabad has denied the cross-border raids by India.

Since then, heavy shelling and firing across the simmering Line of Control has led to deaths of civilians and soldiers. On Monday, in a rare admission, Pakistan stated that seven of its soldiers were killed in overnight firing by India on the LoC.

In recent weeks, both Islamabad and Delhi have expelled each other’s diplomats, accusing them of spying, in tit-for-tat moves.

The Heart of Asia conference focusing on Afghanistan is due to be held in Amritsar, close to the Pakistani border.

The conference will seek ways to help improve security and bring peace to Afghanistan, which has been mired in conflict since a US-led coalition toppled the hardline Taliban government in 2001.

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have also been strained over the past year, with Kabul accusing Islamabad of harbouring the leaders of Taliban and seeking to meddle in Afghan affairs.

Pakistan denies the charge. “Heart of Asia is for Afghanistan and Afghanistan is our priority,” said Aziz.

–IANS

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