Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is likely to skip the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, which will be held in Islamabad next week. government sources on Tuesday indicated that Jaitley will not be attending the SAARC meet, despite reports from Pakistan that he would be accorded a "warm welcome" if he participates in the ministerial conference. However, a final call on the matter will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Until Monday, sources in New Delhi said it was far from certain whether Jaitley would travel to Islamabad for the meeting to be hosted on August 25 and 26. Earlier, Pakistan's Finance Ministry said that Islamabad will play a "good host" and avoid a repetition of the tense atmosphere that prevailed during Home Minister Rajnath Singh's recent visit. The ministry officials said there are chances of "gracious handshakes" between Pakistan finance minister Ishaq Dar and his Indian counterpart if Jaitley decides to attend the ministerial conference.
The government has finalised arrangements for the upcoming SAARC meet, a Pakistan finance ministry statement said, adding that Dar chaired a meeting to review arrangements for the conference. Pakistan would play the role of a "good host" and try to keep the overall ambience positive, the statement added. The ministerial conference comes in the shadow of Singh's visit to Islamabad earlier this month where barbs were exchanged between Singh and Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who only had a tense and uneasy handshake during the SAARC meeting.
The duo also traded repartees over issues of terrorism and violence in Kashmir. "The hostilities were at peak during the Home Ministers' Conference and Dar does not wish a repetition," finance ministry officials were quoted as saying by the Express Tribune. They further said that all regional countries except Bangladesh have confirmed participation of their finance ministers. "Bangladesh has so far only confirmed the participation of its deputy finance minister. Dar will personally call his Bangladeshi counterpart and urge him to attend the conference," they added.