Sushma Arrives In Pak Today For Saarc Meet

Islamabad, March 6: | Updated: Mar 7 2002, 05:30am hrs
Amid expectations of a thaw in the Indo-Pak relations, information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj will arrive here on Thursday to attend the Saarc information ministers conference, to be inaugurated by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

She will arrive here via Dubai as the air, train and road links between India and Pakistan remain suspended.

There are no indications that Ms Swaraj during her stay would meet any Pakistani official other than those concerned with the conference. But official and media circles feel that her visit was prelude to kickstart a dialogue process for de-escalation of tensions.

Though no official meeting has been planned between Ms Swaraj and Gen Musharraf, the two leaders would come face to face at the inaugural session of the conference on Thursday, where both are likely to share the same dais.

The speculation of a possible dramatic gesture similar to the one by Gen Musharraf at the January Saarc summit in Kathmandu, where he walked up to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and shook hands with him, is in the air.Contrary to earlier speculation, Gen Musharraf leaves for an official visit to Tokyo on March 12 and not on March 8.

According to Indian high commission officials, so far no bilateral meetings have been fixed between Mr Swaraj and Pakistan officials.

In fact, the only time she would come face to face with Pakistan officials and sections of the media here would be during the conference and later at the dinner being hosted by Indias acting high commissioner Sudhir Vyas in Ms Swarajs honour.

Just two days ahead of the conference, Gen Musharraf appointed a retired IBM general manager Nisar Memon as the countrys new information minister.

Besides Ms Swaraj and Mr Memon, the conference would be attended by concerned ministers from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The three-day conference is expected to focus on strengthening the regional cooperation in the field of information and media.The member countries would also focus on developing an appropriate software for information infrastructure of saarc functional cooperation.

Besides this, publicity and projection of the Saarc activities within and outside the region, evolving a saarc common position for projection at the world summit on the information society to be held in Switzerland next year, will also be discussed at length.