ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday reviewed the preparations on the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference scheduled to be held here from December 8 to December 10.

Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaz Aziz briefed the prime minister on the arrangements for the conference which may also be attended by Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, but there is no official confirmation about it from the Foreign Office.

The meeting discussed both the scenarios on how to deal with the situation in case Sushma Swaraj lands in Islamabad to participate in the three-day moot or India decides to abstain.

The briefing was also attended by National Security Adviser to PM Lt-Gen (r) Nasir Khan Janjua, ISI DG Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Tariq Fatemi and other senior officials.

Meanwhile, officials in the Foreign Ministry confirmed Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi would attend the fifth ministerial conference of the Istanbul Process also known as the Heart of Asia Conference.

Indian media yesterday said Sushma Swaraj would travel to Islamabad along with Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar on December 8 to attend the conference and stay there for one day. The Foreign Office officials were tight-lipped and did not confirm the reports.

On Thursday last, Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said Islamabad was waiting for official confirmation about the participation of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the conference and the situation is still more or less the same as New Delhi has yet to come up with confirmation.

If she arrives here, it would be the first significant and official interaction between the two countries since the meeting between the premiers of two neighbouring states in Ufa in July last year, as Sushma Swaraj, in case of her visit to Islamabad, would be calling on Prime Minister Sharif and Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of the conference. An official source said that the government is optimistic about the Indian external affairs minister’s visit to Islamabad.

The meeting between Premier Sharif and his Indian counterpart Modi in Paris last week had broken the ice as both of them agreed, in the brief informal encounter, to resumption of talks to resolve outstanding issues between the two nuclear neighbours.

In this backdrop, Sushma Swaraja’s visit to Pakistan would be the first concrete step towards the resumption of formal dialogue between the two sides.

The Istanbul Process furnishes a new agenda for regional cooperation in the ‘Heart of Asia’ by placing Afghanistan at its centre and engaging the member countries in sincere and result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan as well as a secure and prosperous region as a whole.

The ‘Heart of Asia’ conferences started in 2011 and are aimed at bringing together regional countries to promote peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. The participating countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistan.

JANJUA BRIEFS PM ON BALOCHISTAN

National Security Adviser Lt-Gen (r) Nasir Khan Janjua yesterday briefed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on national and regional security matters with special reference to efforts on normalising things in Balochistan.

The sources aware of the deliberations of the meeting told The Nation that Janjua who has recently taken over as national security adviser to the PM also briefed the premier on the prospects of resumption of Afghan peace process and the role Islamabad could play in this regard.

There was no official word about the meeting, but some insiders in the Prime Minister House said Balochistan issue came under discussion at length and the issue of expected change of government as per the Murree Agreement was also discussed.

The sources further revealed the prime minister was weighing the options on tackling the issue as certain quarters were persuading him to let the incumbent setup, led by Chief Minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch continue, whereas under the agreement between the PML-N and the nationalist parties – National Party and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party – the nationalist parties would rule the province for the first two-and-a-half years while for the rest of the term PML-N would be in the lead role.

The sources said certain quarters wanted to see the incumbent setup complete the five-year term as the change of guards would leave negative impact on the ongoing negotiation process with dissident nationalist leaders.

They said Premier Sharif was weighing his options and wanted to have all encompassing view of the change in Balochistan.

The political landscape in Balochistan where General Janjua remained corps commander before assuming the charge of national security adviser and the prime minister’s offer to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for assistance in resumption of Taliban-Afghan government talks also came under discussion, another source in the ruling PML-N revealed.

Later, Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, ISI DG Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar, Tariq Fatemi and other senior officials also joined the meeting.