Pakistan Premier’s foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz along with foreign ministers of four countries on Saturday called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi who told them that it was important to end terrorism and violence for fostering stability in Afghanistan and the region.
The foreign ministers of Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Slovakia, which holds the European Union Presidency this month, along with Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Aziz called on Modi ahead of the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process on Afghanistan in Amritsar.
Prime Minister Modi welcomed the foreign ministers and stressed it was the collective responsibility of all those in the region to work together to help Afghanistan out of its current difficulties, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
The prime minister stated that his several interactions with both the common people of Afghanistan and the country’s leadership had convinced him that the Afghan people were tired of the continuing violence and terrorism.
Prime Minister Modi stressed on ‘the need to end terrorism and violence for fostering stability, security and development in Afghanistan and our region’, Swarup said.
In this context, the prime minister hoped that discussions in the Ministerial Conference will produce good results.
Agreeing with the Premier on the need to end violence in Afghanistan, the foreign ministers shared Modi’s view that Afghanistan’s stability, security and prosperity are integral to that of the region, Swarup said.
"They greatly appreciated the continued commitment and engagement of India and its leadership for these ends. The foreign ministers warmly thanked India for hosting the Conference and expressed confidence that all friends of Afghanistan will work together for realising the aspirations for peace and development," he said.
Aziz also attended a dinner where he exchanged pleasantries with PM Modi.
Aziz was earlier scheduled to arrive in India on Sunday but came a day early due to prevailing weather condition. Almost the entire northern India has been affected by thick fog for the last two days, delaying flights and train operations.
Aziz advanced his visit after he was informed about the weather condition, sources said.
There was no clarity on whether there will be a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the conference but the possibility of any such meeting appeared bleak.
Interestingly, in a goodwill gesture, Aziz sent a bouquet to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, extending his 'sincere good wishes for her full and speedy recovery' from illness.
Swaraj, undergoing treatment for renal failure, is not attending the Heart of Asia conference and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will head the Indian delegation at the ministerial deliberations.
Aziz, who arrived here on a special flight, was received at the airport by Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit.
Pakistan and India had held a meeting during last year’s Heart of Asia Summit in Islamabad during which both countries had agreed to start a ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ which was to cover all outstanding issues. The resumption of the dialogue could, however, not take place due to the Pathankot terror attack in January this year.
Meanwhile, Pakistani media took note of the handshake and exchange of niceties between Modi and Aziz at Amritsar amid deadly border skirmishes and rhetoric.
The Express Tribune under the front page headline -- Aziz-Modi handshake sets off media frenzy -- wrote that ‘after months of war rhetoric and deadly border skirmishes, Indian and Pakistani officials exchanged niceties and set the media abuzz on Saturday’.
‘With a broad smile on his face, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shook hands with Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz at a banquet he had hosted for the participants of the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar,’ it reported.
The paper reported that Modi also asked about the health of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif who had recently undergone open heart surgery in a London hospital.
Aziz conveyed 'good wishes' to the Indian leader on behalf of Sharif.
The Dawn reported that Aziz was received by Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and the joint secretary of Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
'Sartaj Aziz also sent a bouquet to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her residence, extending his sincere good wishes for her full and speedy recovery,' it said.
The News International reported that Modi shook hands with Aziz and inquired after the well-being of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from him.
‘Aziz said Nawaz Sharif is well and he has also expressed good wishes for him,’ it further reported.
It also reported that Aziz sent a bouquet to Swaraj at her residence extending good wishes for her speedy recovery.
Pakistan was unanimous that no meeting between Pakistani and Indian officials on the sidelines was expected due to the ongoing bilateral tension.
'Contrary to Indian media reports, no actual talks took place during the banquet. Nonetheless, the customary handshake after months of belligerence and hostilities set off media frenzy in both countries,’ according to the Express Tribune.