Pakistan to accord "warm welcome" to Jaitley at SAARC meet

Islamabad, Aug 14: Pakistan has decided to play a "good host" and avoid a repetition of the tense atmosphere that prevailed during Home Minister Rajnath Singh's recent visit by according a "warm welcome" to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the SAARC ministerial conference later this month.

Jaitley is likely to attend the SAARC Finance Ministers' Conference to be hosted in Islamabad on August 25 and 26 and there are chances of "gracious handshakes" between Pakistan finance minister Ishaq Dar and his Indian counterpart, finance ministry officials said.

Pak to play good host to Jaitley

The government has finalised arrangements for the upcoming SAARC meet, a finance ministry statement said, adding that Dar chaired a meeting to review arrangements for the conference.

Pakistan would play the role of a "good host" and try to keep the overall ambiance positive, the statement added.

The ministerial conference comes in the shadow of home minister Singh's visit to Islamabad earlier this month where barbs were exchanged between Singh and Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who only had a tense and uneasy handshake during the SAARC meeting.

The duo exchanged repartee over issues of terrorism and violence in Kashmir. "The hostilities were at peak during the Home Ministers' Conference and Dar does not wish a repetition," finance ministry officials were quoted as saying by the Express Tribune.

They further said that all regional countries except Bangladesh have confirmed participation of their finance ministers. "Bangladesh has so far only confirmed the participation of its deputy finance minister. Dar will personally call his Bangladeshi counterpart and urge him to attend the conference," they added.

However, the Ministry of Finance did not comment on whether a bilateral meeting would be held between the finance ministers of India and Pakistan.

The meetings are taking place ahead of the SAARC Summit to be held in November in Islamabad wherein Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also expected to participate.

"All SAARC countries have a lot of potential to develop together utilising each other's potentials and energies. The cooperation is necessary in promoting the welfare and improving the quality of life of the people of the region," said Dar.

"The upcoming conference is an important event in this regard," he added. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation. Its member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


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