Despite reports from Pakistan that he would be accorded a “warm welcome” if he participates in the SAARC ministerial conference in Islamabad later this month, sources told ANI that Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will not be attending it.

Instead, India will be represented by Finance Secretary Shashikant Das at the regional summit.

Jaitley was supposed to travel to Islamabad for the meeting to be hosted by Pakistan on 25 and 26 August.  However, a NDTV report says that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take the final decision over Jaitley’s visit to Islamabad.

The SAARC meet comes in the shadow of Rajnath Singh’s visit to Islamabad earlier this month where barbs were exchanged between him and Pakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who only had a tense and uneasy handshake during the SAARC meeting. The duo had also exchanged repartee over issues of terrorism and violence in Kashmir.

b’Rajnath Singh/Source: PTI’

Sensing India’s unhappiness, Pakistan had said in a statement on Sunday that it will play a “good host” and avoid a repetition of the tense atmosphere that prevailed during Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s recent visit by according a “warm welcome” to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the SAARC summit.

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.

All regional countries except Bangladesh have confirmed participation of their finance ministers at the conference.The meetings are taking place ahead of the SAARC Summit to be held in November in Islamabad.

b’Arun Jaitley/Source: PTI’

“All SAARC countries have a lot of potential to develop together utilising each other’s potentials and energies. The cooperation is necessary in promoting the welfare and improving the quality of life of the people of the region,” said Dar.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation. Its member states include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.