The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal keen on Saarc meet, says Pakistan

Islamabad, Oct. 21: Pakistan today said the Indian Prime Minister will attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit, to be held here in January.

“Indian foreign minister Yashwant Sinha indicated (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee’s willingness to participate in the summit to our foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri in New York on the sidelines of (September’s) UN General Assembly (session),” foreign office spokesman Masood Khan said today.

An invitation for the summit was sent to Vajpayee last month through diplomatic channels after Kasuri had to drop plans to deliver the invitation personally. Delhi made it clear that there was no need for the minister to visit India, sparking angry words between the neighbours.

Khan today said the Prime Minister had told Maulana Fazl-ur Rehman during the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal leader’s July 2003 India visit that he was ready to attend the summit. “We hope that the Indian leadership will stick to their commitment and contribute to successful holding of the Saarc summit,” he said.

Pakistan and India have sought to normalise relations since Vajpayee extended a hand of friendship to Islamabad last April. Tension had peaked after the December 2001 attack on Parliament which led both countries to mass troops along the border.

Saarc, which was formed in 1985, has failed in its objective of getting the seven South Asian nations to cooperate closely. This is chiefly because of continuing tension between Pakistan and India and disagreements on the South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement and the South Asian Free Trade Agreement.

Pakistan also wants the Saarc charter to be amended to allow member states to discuss political problems and disputes. But Delhi opposes any amendment.

“We want genuine engagement of both the countries in a result-oriented process of dialogue,” Khan said.

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