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No Indo-Pak talks during SAARC foreign secys' meet

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
July 04, 2003 14:22 IST
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India and Pakistan will not have any bilateral talks in Kathmandu before or on the sidelines of a standing committee meeting of foreign secretaries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

The meeting is scheduled for July 9 and 10.
A senior Ministry of External Affairs official said no meetings have been scheduled between Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal and his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Khokhar in Kathmandu.

"As reiterated many times, India's approach is to move step by step," he said and added "we will like to review the situation after the Lahore bus service starts, air links open up and high commissioners' offices starts functioning."

He said the Kathmandu meeting is a routine one where the budgets and annual reports will be approved. The meeting is being held in Kathmandu because currently Nepal is chairing SAARC.

Chairmanship of SAARC is rotated amongst its seven member countries in an alphabetical order. The next in line is Pakistan.

In Kathmandu, Pakistan is expected to give the dates for the next  SAARC summit, where Nepal will formally hand over the chairmanship to Islamabad.

The dates are eagerly awaited by the diplomatic community in New Delhi and Islamabad because that will be an occasion for Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to visit Islamabad.

In view of the recent moves for peace between the two countries, SAARC could well provide the setting for the first meeting between Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf since the Agra summit.


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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi