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India, Pak to attend West Asia meet

Pakistan, along with India, has been invited to attend the United States-convened West Asia conference to be held at Annapolis, US, next week, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2007 03:45 IST
Nilova Roy Chaudhury

Pakistan, along with India, has been invited to attend the United States-convened West Asia conference to be held at Annapolis, US, next week. India has confirmed its participation at the conference after receiving the invitation on Tuesday, but has not finalised the level of representation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who left for Uganda on Thursday, is expected to finalise details of representation later on Thursday night, though his Special Envoy on West Asia, Chinmaya R Gharekhan, is likely to lead the Indian delegation.

India is unlikely to be thrilled at the invitation to Pakistan, but is "satisfied" it has finally been called on board for a conference on West Asia, which it calls its "extended neighbourhood." New Delhi has always sought a "meaningful" role in helping to resolve the West Asian crisis, because of its friendly relations with all the major players in the region.

But it has never been called upon to offer its expertise, except as a possible "role model," to show countries in the region how to live in harmony amidst diversity. M.K. Rasgotra, convenor of the National Security Advisory Board, said he was happy India had been invited for the conference and hoped the country would be taken on by the European Union as a "full partner" in the Quartet's efforts.

"I am not happy with India being an observer, like at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), because you can observe, but you can't speak," Rasgotra said at a seminar on 'Emerging Security Concerns in West Asia' organised by the Observer Research Foundation.

There are 4.5 million Indians residing in West Asia, sending in remittances worth around $20 billion, Gharekhan said. And while India's relations with the region "predate the discovery of oil," energy security, the welfare of its citizens, the growing Shia-Sunni schism and the "increased volatility" and radicalisation of West Asia, with the arrival of Al-Qaeda, were major concerns.

The conference, Gharekhan said, could be a "launching pad" for a new roadmap and an invigorated dialogue process between Israel and Palestine, while its failure "would strengthen the hands of extremist elements."

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