ISLAMABAD - Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Tuesday he plans to attend the Heart of Asia conference in India and suggested the visit could be used to “defuse the tension” between the nuclear armed neighbours.

Sartaj Aziz’s trip to India would be the first by a senior Pakistani official since gunmen raided an army base in Indian-held Kashmir and killed 19 soldiers in September. Over 100 Kashmiris were also killed by Indian forces in months of clashes. And on Monday, seven Pakistani army soldiers were killed in unprovoked Indian firing at Line of Control in Kashmir.

“It’s a good opportunity to defuse the tension,” Aziz told PTV in an interview.

Artillery duels and skirmishes have recently intensified along the disputed frontier running through the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Despite hinting at a possible detente, Aziz said there was no official meeting scheduled with Indian officials. “It’s early to say. Depends upon the situation,” he said.

The Heart of Asia conference focusing on Afghanistan is due to be held in the first week of December in the northwestern Indian city of 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.

India said a fortnight ago that they will welcome Pakistan’s participation at the Heart of Asia conference. Indian foreign ministry said the conference was a ministerial level meeting and a multilateral conference to discuss peace, development and economic cooperation for the prosperity of Afghanistan.