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Natwar-Kasuri China meeting crucial
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 17
When the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan have their first face-to-face meeting on June 21 over a working lunch in China, it is bound to provide a lot of food for thought on the ongoing Indo-Pak detente.

This will be the second high-level meeting between the two countries since the Manmohan Singh government assumed office. The two countries' National Security Advisers - Mr J.N. Dixit and Mr Tariq Aziz - have already met in Amritsar this month, though covertly.

The Dixit-Aziz talks are likely to find an echo at the China meeting between External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, where the two ministers will have an important, though informal, session all between themselves.

The China meeting will also mark the first of many meetings Natwar Singh and Kasuri are going to have in the next two months. After China, the two ministers will meet in Indonesia at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meet on July 1 and 2.

A few days later, the two ministers will meet one another in Islamabad when Natwar Singh travels to attend a SAARC ministerial meeting. Incidentally, in July, India and Pakistan are set to have six separate meetings - three to be hosted by India and three by Pakistan - on six different aspects of the composite dialogue process.

Besides, a scheduled bilateral meeting between the two ministers is slated in August.

The Natwar-Kaasuri meeting in Qingdao (China) is believed to be path breaking in this context. Both Natwar Singh and Kasuri will be in Qingdao from June 20 to 23 to take part in the third Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) Ministerial Meeting.

Though it will not be a full-fledged ministerial-level meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the two nuclear nations, the very fact that they are using a multilateral forum for a bilateral meeting augurs well for Indo-Pak relations, a senior official told The Tribune.

The two ministers will touch base on a host of bilateral, regional and international issues. The Qingdao meeting between Natwar Singh and Kasuri will come at a time when the first-ever nuclear CBM talks between the experts of India and Pakistan would have just ended.

Besides, the timing of the Qingdao meeting assumes significance, as it will take place exactly a week before the two countries' Foreign Secretaries hold their confabulations in New Delhi on June 27 and 28.

Natwar Singh, who yesterday met with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London and United States Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington on June 10, will meet Foreign Ministers of three important Asian powers - Japan, China and South Korea - during his China visit.

He will meet the Foreign Minister of Oman also at the ACD meeting. The ACD is an initiative of Thai Prime Minister Shinawatra with the objective of providing a forum for exchange of ideas among Asian cooperation groupings spanning the whole of Asia.

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