Pak­istan’s top diplo­mat says he will visit In­dia

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

IS­LAM­ABAD: Pak­istan’s top for­eign af­fairs of­fi­cial has said he plans to visit In­dia next month for a re­gional con­fer­ence, the first high-pro­file visit since ten­sions spi­raled be­tween the archri­vals after a deadly at­tack on an In­dian army base.

Sar­taj Aziz, ad­viser to Pak­istan’s prime min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif and de facto for­eign min­is­ter, said he will at­tend the Heart of Asia con­fer­ence on Afghanistan, to be hosted by In­dia in De­cem­ber, “to defuse the ten­sion”. “We want to prove that Pak­istan is with the mul­ti­lat­eral process by at­tend­ing the Heart of Asia Con­fer­ence as Afghanistan is our top pri­or­ity,” he told re­porters in Is­lam­abad on Tues­day.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear if he would hold any bi­lat­eral talks with In­dian of­fi­cials dur­ing the visit. The de­ci­sion came after months of surg­ing ten­sions be­tween the nu­clear-armed neigh­bors sparked by a Septem­ber at­tack on an In­dian base in dis­puted Kash­mir, which killed 19 sol­diers and which New Delhi blames on Pak­istan-based mil­i­tants. Ten­sions reached dan­ger­ous lev­els as In­dia said it had re­tal­i­ated to the raid by car­ry­ing out “sur­gi­cal strikes” across the heav­ily mil­i­ta­rized bor­der, spark­ing a fu­ri­ous re­ac­tion from Is­lam­abad, which de­nied the strikes took place. There have since been re­peated out­breaks of cross­bor­der fir­ing, with both sides re­port­ing deaths and in­juries in­clud­ing of civil­ians.

In­dia also sought to iso­late Pak­istan in the wake of the mil­i­tant raid, pulling out of a key South Asian sum­mit set to be held in Is­lam­abad in Novem­ber in a ma­jor snub. Other coun­tries sched­uled to at­tend the South Asian As­so­ci­a­tion for Re­gional Co­op­er­a­tion (SAARC) sum­mit fol­lowed suit, even­tu­ally forc­ing Is­lam­abad to can­cel it en­tirely.

In his com­ments Tues­day, tele­vised by Pak­istan’s big­gest pri­vate TV chan­nel GEO, Aziz con­demned In­dia for that de­ci­sion. Kash­mir has been di­vided be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan since the end of Bri­tish colo­nial rule in 1947. Both claim the Hi­malayan ter­ri­tory in full and have fought two wars over the moun­tain­ous re­gion.

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