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Saarc: Sushma, Sartaj meet over breakfast ahead of bilateral talks

india Updated: Mar 17, 2016 14:14 IST
Utpal Parashar
Utpal Parashar
Hindustan Times
external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj with Pakistan’s foreign policy chiefSartaj Aziz during a dinner at the SAARC ministerial meeting in Pokhara, Nepal on Wednesday. (PTI)

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s foreign policy chief Sartaj Aziz held informal talks for the second time in as many days on the sidelines of a breakfast before a meeting of SAARC foreign ministers in Pokhara on Thursday.

The two leaders were seated next to each other at a table during the breakfast hosted by Nepal’s deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa. They were also seen standing separately and talking animatedly for close to six minutes.

Swaraj and Aziz arrived in the resort town on Wednesday to attend a meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers to be inaugurated by Prime Minister KPSharma Oli.

They held informal talks during a dinner hosted by Oli on Wednesday night. Swaraj and Aziz sat next to each other during the dinner and were seen exchanging pleasantries and talking at length.

Swaraj and Aziz are scheduled to hold a meeting on Thursday evening and sources said the terrorist attack on the Pathankot airbase is expected to figure in the talks.

Also Read | Pathankot likely to figure during Swaraj-Aziz meet in Nepal today

“The main agenda of the meeting is for Aziz to extend an invitation for the Saarc summit in Islamabad later this year. But they would obviously talk of other issues, including terror attacks,” a senior Indian diplomat told Hindustan Times.

The formal meeting will be the first high-level interaction between the two countries since the Indian Air Force base was attacked on January 2. Seven Indian security personnel were killed in the assault, which India blamed on Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

A planned meeting of the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan was cancelled after the Pathankot attack .

The Saarc meet is assessing progress made since the 2014 summit of the grouping in Kathmandu.

Also Read | Sushma, Aziz exchange pleasantries during dinner hosted by Nepal PM

Besides her meeting with Aziz, Swaraj will meet her counterparts from other Saarc nations.

Swaraj held two separate meetings with Prime Minister Oli and her Nepali counterpart Kamal Thapa on Wednesday evening and discussed bilateral issues.

“Discussions revolved round on the entire range of bilateral issues,” said another Indian diplomat.

The implementation of Nepal’s new Constitution and ways to handle the demands of Madhesi parties, who are seeking fresh demarcation of state boundaries, figured during the deliberations.