M A I N   N E W S

Kasuri in Delhi, to meet Pranab
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 25
India and Pakistan will be holding Foreign Minister-level parleys, albeit informal, on November 27.

Pakistanís Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri arrived here this evening along with his wife Naureen on a private visit to attend Union Minister Mani Shanker Aiyerís daughterís wedding.

Though the visit is not official, New Delhi is very keen to send a message of its desire to improve relations with Pakistan. Therefore, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has sent him an invite for a lunch at Hyderabad House on November 27.

At the informal lunch, the two foreign ministers will be engaged in serious discussions. This will be the first time when Mr Mukherjee will be meeting his Pakistani counterpart after becoming the External Affairs Minister.

Mr Mukherjee is expected to travel to Pakistan in January next to formally invite Pakistan for the next SAARC summit in India.

The two foreign ministers are expected to informally review the recently-concluded Foreign Secretary-level talks here and discuss ways to remove the trust deficit between the two neighbours.

Another issue that is likely to dominate the two foreign ministersí lunch discussions is the newly set-up Indo-Pak joint mechanism on combating terror.

Though it has been decided that an Additional Secretary-level Foreign Office officer will be heading each side of the three-member body, the other two members of the mechanism are yet to be named.

Only after the full composition of the three-member team from either side is decided, will the forum hold its maiden meeting.

From Islamabadís point of view, the issue of Indian Prime Minister travelling to Pakistan is still pending and the regime of General Pervez Musharraf will like to have early dates of the Prime Ministerís visit. Mr Kasuri will be conveying this sentiment to his Indian counterpart.

A forward movement on Dr Manmohan Singhís maiden visit to Pakistan can be expected after the informal Mukherjee-Kasuri talks.

The Indo-Pak engagement in different spheres has already picked up momentum. Pakistanís Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry is also here. He arrived here last night to attend a Commonwealth meeting of Chief Justices that got underway today.

In February, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon is scheduled to visit Islamabad for talks with his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammad Khan to kick start the fourth round of composite dialogue process.



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