Qureshi not to attend SAARC Foreign Ministers` meet in Bhutan

Shah Mahmood Qureshi will not attend SAARC Foreign Ministers` meeting to be held in Bhutan early next month and Pakistan will be represented by his deputy, official sources said Thursday.

Islamabad: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will not attend SAARC Foreign Ministers` meeting to be held in Bhutan early next month and Pakistan will be represented by his deputy, official sources said Thursday.

Qureshi decided not to attend the SAARC Foreign
Ministers` meet in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu on February
8-9 so that focus would not be diverted from a meeting between
the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan at the same
venue, the sources in the Pakistan government told reporters.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani
counterpart Salman Bashir are scheduled to meet on the margins
of the SAARC Foreign Secretaries` meet in Thimphu during
February 6-7.

The meeting is aimed at exploring ways to revive the
India-Pakistan peace process that has been stalled since the
2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

"There was a feeling that Foreign Minister Qureshi`s
presence at the SAARC meeting and speculation about a meeting
with his Indian counterpart in Thimphu would divert attention
and focus from the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries," said a
source.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Malik Amad Khan
will represent Pakistan at the SAARC Foreign Ministers` meet
in Thimphu.

The sources also said that Qureshi is expected to visit
New Delhi in March for talks with his Indian counterpart S M
Krishna.

The two countries have exchanged several proposals for
reviving the peace process in the run-up to the meeting of the
Foreign Secretaries.

In these proposals, Pakistan has pushed for the
full-fledged revival of the composite dialogue and the
inclusion of all issues in the proposed parleys, including
what it describes as the "core issue" of Kashmir.

India has favoured a phased resumption of the peace
process.

It has also pushed Pakistan to prosecute the perpetrators
of the terror attacks on Mumbai that killed 166 people.

In recent days, several Indian leaders have expressed
concern at the slow pace of the trial of seven Pakistanis,
including Lashker-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi,
charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks.

PTI

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