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India for SAARC summit on Feb 6,7
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 13
Mr K Natwar Singh will become the first Indian foreign minister next month to embark on a bilateral visit to Pakistan in 15 years. His three-day visit to Pakistan from February 15 was officially announced today.

However, the visit comes at a time when the views of India and Pakistan do not converge on two important issues, a multilateral issue and a bilateral issue that were, the dates of the next SAARC summit in Dhaka next month and the Baglihar project in Jammu and Kashmir.

Official sources said late this evening that Mr Natwar Singh today had telephonic conversations with various SAARC leaders and Foreign Ministers on the holding of the next SAARC summit.

Consequently it now appears that the SAARC summit that was to be held this month and had to be postponed because of the tsunami disaster is now likely to be cut short by one day and held in Dhaka on February 6 and 7.

As per Pakistani media reports, all SAARC countries except India had given their consent for holding the summit from February 7-9 whereas the Government of India was yet to announce its decision on this.

South Block sources told The Tribune that Mr Natwar Singh’s Pakistan visit had immense importance for Indo-Pak relations, as it would be for the first time in 15 years when Indian Foreign Minister would go on a bilateral visit to Pakistan.

This fact would add a new dimension to Indo-Pak bilateral ties as the two neighbours plunge into the second round of Composite Dialogue process to normalise relations.

Mr Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri would take off from the December 2004 meeting of the two Foreign Secretaries and “all aspects” of bilateral relations would be discussed.

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