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Kasuri not to attend conference on Afghanistan
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 1
Pakistanís Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri will not be coming here for attending a crucial conference on Afghanistan that New Delhi is hosting on November 18-19. Instead, Islamabad has nominated Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani to participate in the event.

However, Mr Kasuri is likely to come here on a private visit three weeks later, Pakistanís Deputy High Commissioner Afrasiab told this correspondent today. Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyerís daughter is getting married here in the third week of this month and Mr Kasuri is one of the several foreign guests Mr Aiyer has invited.

This correspondent understands that Mr Kasuri has expressed his inclination to attend the wedding. Mr Kasuriís visit to India, albeit in private capacity, can be torpedoed only in the unlikely scenario if the Indo-Pakistan Foreign Secretary-level talks, scheduled to take place here on November 14-15, collapse.

Mr Kasuriís presence here will inevitably electrify the political horizons in the subcontinent. It will be his first appearance here after Mumbai trains blasts for which New Delhi has blamed Pakistanís Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

Secondly, Mr Kasuri has just a few days ago gone on record saying that India and Pakistan were close to resolving the Siachen dispute and added an important rider that it was up to the Indian leadership to clinch the deal.

The Government of India had invited foreign ministers of 20 countries, including Mr Kasuri, for attending the November 18-19 Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan.

Since the primary focus of the conference is to boost trade with Afghanistan and deliberate on energy cooperation with Afghanistan involving laying of oil and gas pipelines, Pakistan decided to send its Economic Affairs Minister.

India-Pakistan official interactions have already gained momentum as Pakistanís Federal Minister for Environment Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat arrived here today for participating in an international conference even as two senior Pakistani officials are already here.

Syed Hayat is here to attend the 37th meeting of implementation committee and 18th meeting of the parties to Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete ozone layer, scheduled to take place here tomorrow and day after.

A five-member Railway delegation from Pakistan is already here for routine technical-level consultations.

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