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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 14:32 GMT
Indian minister goes to Pakistan
Indian soldiers on guard in Jammu
Nearly one million troops have been deployed
test hello test
By Zaffar Abbas
BBC correspondent in Islamabad
line
The Indian Information Minister, Sushma Swaraj, is due to arrive in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad on Thursday despite the continuing tensions between the two countries.

Ms Swaraj is attending a conference of information ministers of the seven-member regional grouping, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

In normal circumstances such a regional meeting of government ministers from South Asian countries would have gone unnoticed.

But nearly one million troops from India and Pakistan are presently stationed on their common borders.

No direct route

Both Delhi and Islamabad have imposed travel and other sanctions against each other.

Indian and Pakistani guards at Wagah border post
Some hope the conference will reduce tension

The travel restrictions, first imposed by India, then reciprocated by Pakistan, have even made the Indian Minister Sushma Swaraj's arrival for the meeting somewhat complicated.

As she is unable to take a direct route to Pakistan, either by air or road, she will be arriving in Islamabad in the early hours of Thursday after taking a connecting flight in Dubai.

But the fact that Ms Swaraj has decided to attend this meeting in the Pakistani capital is a clear indication that not all contact has been lost between the two bitter South Asian adversaries.

Opportunity

Although the Saarc forum does not allow discussion on bilateral matters, the presence of an influential Indian minister in Pakistan may provide the two sides an opportunity to explore the possibility of easing tensions.

Pakistan's newly appointed Information Minister, Nisar Memon, on Wednesday expressed the hope that this conference would provide an opportunity for the member countries to move towards the objectives of peace, progress and harmony in the region.

"As a result of this conference, any tensions we have within the member countries will be removed," he said.

The Nepalese Information Minister, Joya Prakash Gupta and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Abdul Moeen Khan, made similar remarks.

They said the Saarc forum should provide the basis for removing misunderstanding and for promoting friendship in the region.

See also:

29 Jan 02 | South Asia
India snubs Pakistan over talks
13 Jan 02 | South Asia
Bush urges Pakistan-India dialogue
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan to regulate religious schools
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