Indian, Pakistani foreign ministers to meet next month

April 9th, 2008 - 8:40 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will be in Islamabad May 21 for talks with his Pakistani counterpart, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on strengthening and deepening bilateral ties. The two foreign ministers will also review the progress made in the fourth round of the Composite Dialogue and announce fresh dates for its next round.

“The external affairs minister will be visiting Islamabad on May 21, 2008 to hold a review meeting of the fourth round of Composite Dialogue. The visit will be preceded by the visit of the foreign secretary May 20,” a brief statement issued by the external affairs ministry here Wednesday said.

India and Pakistan have so far held four rounds of the Composite Dialogue that has on its agenda eight issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

The Pakistani foreign minister recently said his country will continue to give importance to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute with India. But he added that Islamabad was also keen to make progress on other areas with its neighbour, particularly on trade and commerce.

Last week, Mukherjee spoke to Quereshi by telephone to congratulate him soon after he was appointed foreign minister. Mukherjee’s last visit to Islamabad was in January 2007 and the May visit will be the first contact between the two countries at the foreign ministers’ level since the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led coalition government came to power last month.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who heads the Composite Dialogue with his Pakistani counterpart, visited Islamabad in March 2007 to start the fourth round.

Menon will be in Islamabad a day before Mukherjee’s visit to review the progress in the fourth round of the dialogue and place a report on it before the two foreign ministers.

Mukherjee and Qureshi will review the progress made in the last round and announce the dates of the fifth round of the Composite Dialogue.

The dialogue is seen as a major forum for the two neighbours, who have often been hostile to each other and fought four wars over Kashmir, to resolve their differences through peaceful negotiations.

Apart from the Composite Dialogue and regular visits by leaders and senior officials of the two countries, India and Pakistan have also put in place a ceasefire agreement along their borders for the past five years to normalize relations.

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