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March 29, 2021

Heart of Asia Conference: Qureshi leaves for Dushanbe

Top Story

March 29, 2021

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi leaves today (Monday) as the head of a delegation to attend the 9th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) Ministerial Conference being held tomorrow (Tuesday) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, announced the Foreign Office.

The theme of the conference is “Strengthening Consensus for Peace and Development.” “During the Ministerial Conference, the foreign minister will deliver a statement highlighting Pakistan’s positive contributions to the Afghan peace process and its support for Afghanistan’s development and connectivity within the regional framework,” said the Foreign Office.

On the sidelines of the conference, the foreign minister will hold consultations with key regional and international partners. There have been expectations and speculations ever since it was confirmed that both Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar would be attending the Dushanbe meeting, that there existed a possibility of both of them holding a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the conference. The last formal meeting between the two countries was in 2016 in Nepal.

“As we speak, it is highly unlikely that a meeting between the two foreign ministers will take place. Neither has Pakistan nor India requested for such a meeting on the sidelines of the conference,” sources involved in the process told The News.

However, they said one could not completely rule out such a meeting, which has seen in the past senior officials and even the prime ministers from both the countries ‘accidentally’ bumping into each other for an informal chat.

The News understands that at least two of the friendly countries attending the conference have been trying behind the scenes and encouraging both Pakistan and India to meet for an informal bilateral.

Earlier in May 2019, Qureshi had an informal meeting with his Indian counterpart the late Sushma Swaraj on the sidelines of the SCO Council of Foreign Minister’s meeting in Bishkek. Meanwhile, Qureshi during his visit to Dushanbe, will have bilateral engagement with the Tajik leadership. Besides holding talks with Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Qureshi will interact with other Tajik dignitaries and review the entire gamut of bilateral relations.

The (HoA-IP) comprises 15 participating countries, 17 supporting countries, and 12 supporting regional and international organizations. The members of the process are Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkey.