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SAARC must unite against terror: Shashank
K J M Varma in Islamabad | December 30, 2003 20:45 IST
Foreign Secretary Shashank arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday to participate in the seven-member South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation's foreign secretaries' meeting ahead of the summit level talks from January 4-6.
Shashank, the senior most Indian official to visit Pakistan since the Kargil conflict in 1999, crossed into Pakistan through Wagah border and proceeded to Islamabad by road to attend the two-day preparatory meet on January 2 and 3.
The standing committee meeting would be presided over by Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar and it would discuss issues concerning the regional bloc like finalisation of South Asian Free Trade Area, additional protocol on terrorism and SAARC social charter.
Before crossing into Pakistan from Wagah border, Shashank told said, "We have to be united against terrorism. We have to be united for free trade. We have to be united for better economic cooperation."
He said bilateral meetings between India and Pakistan can take place only after there is 'proper understanding' and peace process starts 'bearing fruits'.
The Standing Committee would begin deliberations based on the issues finalised by the two-day Programming Committee meeting of SAARC joint secretaries, which concluded in Islamabad on Tuesday.
The Programming Committee has finalised the agenda, issues and related documentation for the foreign secretaries' meeting.
Officials from India and Pakistan said they expect a smooth sailing at the Standing Committee meeting due to the prevailing thaw in the relations between the two countries in the run up to the SAARC summit.
"This is as smooth as you can get. Two months ago we had not foreseen this. I do not think there was ever such friendly atmosphere before any SAARC summit in the recent past," a top Pakistani official said.
High on the agenda for the Foreign Secretaries is the finalisation of SAFTA and the implementation of South Asian Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) under which all member countries are to complete the process of exchanging.
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