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Pak FM's India visit begins from June 27

Pakistani Foreign Minister SM Qureshi's visit will not only set the stage for future peace talks but may also include a trip to Chandigarh to strengthen ties between the two Punjabs.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 10, 2008 11:54 AM IST

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will be in India from June 27 for a three-day visit that will not only set the stage for future peace talks but may also include a trip to Chandigarh to strengthen ties between the two Punjabs, informed sources in New Delhi said.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Qureshi are likely to hold their bilateral meeting June 27.

"The dates suggested by the Pakistani side for Qureshi's visit have been accepted by the Indian government," an official said.

The meeting will set the stage for the launch of the fifth round of composite dialogue between the two countries, scheduled for next month.

This will be Qureshi's first visit to India since he became the foreign minister of Pakistan.

Although the programme of the Pakistani minister is being firmed up, he is likely to visit Ajmer, a town in Rajasthan that is home to the holy shrine of one of the most revered Sufi saints, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.

Apart from Mukherjee, Qureshi is also likely to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior leaders of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

Qureshi is also planning to meet some opposition leaders.

Besides, he will have an have an interaction with the captains of Indian business during his stay in New Delhi.

"Since the new government in Pakistan is also keen to deepen and strengthen trade and business ties with India, the proposed interaction between the visiting foreign minister and the representatives of the Indian business and industries will be very useful," a source said.

A visit to Chandigarh for talks with the government and officials there to strengthen the ties between the "two Punjabs" on either side of the border is on the cards.

A number of delegations from Lahore have visited cities in Indian Punjab in the past four years. Qureshi's attempt will be to maintain the high-level of engagement between the two sides and widen its scope to other areas.

Qureshi would also use his visit to review the entire range of bilateral relations between the two sides, the sources said.

Last month, External Affairs Minister Mukherjee and Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon visited Pakistan.

Mukherjee held wide ranging meetings with the Pakistani leadership, including President Pervez Musharraf, co-chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N Nawaz Sharif.

There is a growing consensus in Pakistan to keep the peace process with India on track and resolve all outstanding issues, including that of Jammu and Kashmir, through negotiations.

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