Pakistani foreign minister Qureshi to visit India from Friday

June 22nd, 2008 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

Islamabad, June 22 (IANS) Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi begins a four-day visit to India on Friday for discussions on taking the sub-continental peace process forward and for deepening the bilateral engagement between the two countries. The visit, Qureshi’s first after the installation of a civilian government in Islamabad, “acquires special significance as it would set the tone for the next round of the Pakistan-India composite dialogue and the future course of (their) bilateral engagement”, The News said Sunday.

The visit “will pave the way for the fifth round of the composite dialogue and the long-pending visit of the Indian premier to Pakistan”, it added.

Newly appointed Ambassador-at-Large Nasir Ali Khan, and six senior officials of the foreign ministry, including director-general of the South Asia Division Aizaz Ahmad and spokesman Muhammad Sadiq will accompany Qureshi.

Khan is known to be a close friend of Qureshi and they were contemporaries at Cambridge.

During the visit, Qureshi will hold talks with the top Indian leadership in New Delhi and interact with business leaders there. He will also travel to Ajmer and Chandigarh.

The foreign minister will fly directly to New Delhi from Islamabad aboard a special aircraft on Friday.

On the same day, Qureshi will hold bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee at the historic Hyderabad House that has been the venue of several rounds of Pakistan-India parleys.

He is also scheduled to call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ruling United Progressive Alliance chair Sonia Gandhi on Friday.

“A meeting with President Pratibha Patil is also likely,” The News said.

Pakistani High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik will accompany Qureshi to all these meetings.

The foreign minister will meet Leader of Opposition L K Advani and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Saturday, as also some senior coalition leaders of the ruling coalition.

On June 29 Qureshi will undertake a short trip to the shrine of the Sufi Saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer and wrap up his tour with a visit to Chandigarh on June 30.

In Chandigarh, Qureshi will address a function at the Centre for Rural and Industrial Development that has an ongoing cooperation with the Farmers Association of Pakistan, an organisation with which Qureshi has been closely associated.

During his discussions with Mukherjee, the foreign minister will follow-up on the important decisions they took during their first meeting here last month, particularly the finalisation of the pending agreement on liberalisation of the visa regime, officials said.

Other key items on the agenda would be the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, Sir Creek, Siachen, economic cooperation and trade matters.

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