India extends diplomatic hand to Pakistan, invites its commerce minister for key WTO talks in March

In a significant diplomatic development, India has invited Pakistan's commerce minister Pervaiz Malik to participate in the informal WTO ministerial meeting in New Delhi on 19-20 March. Malik has reportedly confirmed his attendance for the event.

According to a report in The Indian Express, while Malik's meeting with Union commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu is confirmed, it is still not clear if he will also meet external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj or Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India Pakistan. Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The invitation to Malik comes after last December's secret back-channel negotiations between the two national security advisors, Ajit Doval and Nasser Janjua, the report said.

The meeting also holds significance as the decision to participate in the SAARC summit, to be held in Pakistan, comes up again for consideration by the Centre.

In 2016, Modi had decided not to attend the 19th SAARC Summit to be held in Islamabad. India's decision led to the collapse of the entire summit as leaders of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan also pulled out.

Quoting diplomatic sources, the report also said that the two countries will undertake an exchange of prisoners starting with the release of the most vulnerable individuals such as mentally challenged prisoners, children, and women.

The announcement comes shortly after global money-laundering watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) placed Pakistan back on its terrorist financing watchlist, in a likely blow to both Pakistan’s economy and its strained relations with the United States.

Pakistani officials and analysts fear being on the FATF watchlist could endanger its handful of remaining banking links to the outside world, causing real financial pain to the economy just as a general election looms in the summer.

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Updated Date: Feb 26, 2018 14:24:20 IST

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