It remains unclear if finance minister Arun Jaitley will travel to Islamabad for the Saarc ministerial conference later this month, but reports from Pakistan say it will accord him a “warm welcome” if he does.
Given the current hostile atmosphere in Indo-Pak ties, sources in New Delhi said it was uncertain if Jaitley would travel to Pakistan for the meeting on August 25-26.
“Who would represent India and at what level is yet to be decided,” a source said.
However, Pakistan’s finance ministry said it will play a “good host” and avoid a repetition of the tense atmosphere that prevailed during home minister Rajnath Singh’s visit.
The ministry officials said there were chances of “gracious handshakes” between Pakistan finance minister Ishaq Dar and his Indian counterpart if Jaitley decides to attend the ministerial conference.
The government has finalised arrangements for the upcoming Saarc meet, a Pakistan finance ministry statement said, adding that Dar chaired a meeting to review arrangements for the conference.
The ministerial conference comes in the backdrop of Singh’s visit to Islamabad earlier this month, when barbs were exchanged between Singh and Pakistan interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
The duo also traded repartees over issues of terrorism and violence in Kashmir.
“The hostilities were at its peak during the home ministers’ conference and Dar does not wish a repetition,” a finance ministry official was quoted as saying by the Express Tribune.
They further said 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,” the official said.
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.
“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.