AMRITSAR - Adviser to the PM on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz arrived in Indian city of Amritsar on Saturday evening, ahead of his scheduled arrival for the Heart of Asia conference on Sunday morning, in a change Indian officials said was necessitated by weather conditions.

Aziz’s early arrival also raised speculation that he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi would meet for more than the customary handshake, when he attended a dinner hosted by India for conference delegates, reported Indian media.

Hours after his arrival, Aziz attended a dinner where he exchanged pleasantries with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Aziz was among the eight foreign ministers of the participating countries in the conference who called on Modi as a group.

Sartaj Aziz shook hands with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to High Commissioner Abdul Basit, Prime Minister Modi on the occasion expressed well wishes for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Talking to the media, Abdul Basit said all the participants had a joint meeting with Prime Minister Modi after the dinner during which issues relating to Afghanistan were discussed.

He said Adviser Sartaj Aziz on the occasion reiterated Pakistan’s commitment for peace and stability in Afghanistan and expressed the support for every effort to be made for the purpose.

Basit said the adviser had a lengthy meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarief during the dinner.

He said on Sunday the Indian prime minister and Afghan president would jointly inaugurate the conference, being attended by around 40 foreign ministers and dignitaries of 14 participating countries.

Adviser Sartaj Aziz would also address the conference, he added.

Replying to a question, Basit said the adviser was also scheduled to meet Deputy Prime Minister of Turkmenistan and the head of Chinese delegation on Sunday.

Answering another question, he said the adviser had no other scheduled meeting with the Indian prime minister.

At the airport, Sartaj Aziz was received by Pakistan High Commissioner and Joint Secretary of Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

Sartaj Aziz also sent a bouquet to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her residence, extending his sincere good wishes for her full and speedy recovery.

Ms Swaraj, undergoing treatment for renal failure, is not attending the Heart of Asia conference and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will head the Indian delegation at the ministerial deliberations.

The conference initiative was launched in 2011 with the objective to boost economic and security cooperation. Its members included Afghanistan, Pakistan Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.

IRAN OFFERS KASHMIR

MEDIATION

Iran on Saturday offered to mediate between Islamabad and New Delhi on the issue of Kashmir, if both the neighbouring states wanted it to play a role.

“Iran is a close friend of India as well as Pakistan. We would like the relations between our friends to improve. We are ready to do whatever we can, if both our friends so desire,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a special address on “Fighting against terrorism and extremism as a global menace” in New Delhi.

“If Iran can be of any help, we stand ready; we are not volunteering, we stand ready,” he said, adding that “the three countries share common ideas of future democratic international system”.

Zarif further voiced Iran’s hopes ‘to move forward to a better relation between its very dear friends, India and Pakistan.

 

Pakistan supports every effort for Afghan peace