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Sartaj Aziz to visit India to attend ‘Heart of Asia Conference’

Pakistan Prime Minister Nazwz Sharif’s advisor on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz on Wednesday said he would travel to India to attend the Heart of Asia Conference in December, asserting that his visit could be a “good opportunity” to “defuse the tension” between Pakistan and India.

The conference is scheduled to be held in Amritsar on December 3. Mr Aziz would be the first senior Pakistani official to visit India since terrorist attack on the Army base in Uri on September 18, an attack New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

“Unlike India, that had sabotaged Saarc summit in Pakistan by pulling out, Pakistan will respond by participating in the Heart of Asia being held in India,” Mr Aziz said. “It’s a good opportunity to defuse the tension,” he added.

Mr Aziz, however, said it has not been confirmed yet whether he will meet his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the conference or not. “Heart of Asia is for Afghanistan and Afghanistan is our priority,” he added.

The conference will seek ways to help improve security and bring peace to Afghanistan, which has been mired in conflict since a US-led coalition toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have also been strained over the past year, with Kabul accusing Islamabad of harbouring the leaders of Taliban and seeking to meddle in Afghan affairs. Pakistan denies the charge.

The first Heart of Asia conference was held in Kabul in 2012, the second in Almaty in 2013, the third in Beijing in 2014 and the fourth was held in Islamabad in December 2015.

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