Pakistan to attend WTO talks in New Delhi upon Indian invitation: report

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KARACHI: Pakistan’s Minister of Commerce Pervaiz Malik will attend an informal WTO ministerial meeting taking place in New Delhi on March 19-20, The Indian Express reported Monday.

Quoting unnamed diplomatic sources, the newspaper said the Pakistani side has confirmed the participation of the minister. The invitation comes in the wake of the late-December secret back-channel negotiations between the two national security advisors, Ajit Doval and Nasser Janjua, it said.

This will be the first high-level visit of a Pakistani leader since December 2016 when Sartaj Aziz, then foreign affairs advisor, visited India for the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan in Amritsar.

The meeting assumes significance in the backdrop of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Paris meeting during which a US-led anti-Pak motion, which Islamabad believed was moved at India’s behest, was passed.

According to the newspaper, the government of Narendra Modi is ‘under pressure by the international community to reach out to the Pakistani government and its civil society’, and due to this it has ‘withdrawn its objections to participating in multilateral meetings with Pakistan’.

On Friday, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar stood alongside Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Turkmenistan President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, at the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline inauguration ceremony and called it a “peace pipeline” that will deliver both gas and peace to the troubled South Asian region.

The rival countries, the newspaper said, decided in Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting in Kazakhstan last June to not to ‘contaminate every international meeting with their public quarrels’. India hosted a security conference of SCO members earlier this month also attended by Pakistan.

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