The possibility of a formal meeting between Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Russia next week brightened with both sides showing flexibility for a dialogue and amid calls by the US and other global powers to reduce tension in South Asia.
After rhetoric on both sides had threatened to further dent bilateral ties, it appears that they may come together for a meeting between the two PMs, who last held a structured dialogue in May 2014. In the Saarc Summit last November in Kathmandu, they just shook hands amid a chill in ties. However, the two have spoken thrice over telephone since then, all at the initiative of Modi.
“No side has contacted the other for a meeting so far. However, as you would be aware, in any multilateral setting, meetings among heads of state and government is a normal feature,” Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said on Thursday
Meanwhile, sources in the Indian government neither ruled out nor confirmed the possibility of a Modi-Sharif meeting in the Russian city of Ufa, raising speculations of a dialogue.
However, a meeting in Ufa should not be construed as resumption of formal dialogue, Indian government sources indicated. The developments come amid the US hope that New Delhi and Islamabad would work on issues between them.
There are also indications that Russia and China would also like two PMs to have a dialogue. Both India and Pakistan are expected to be made members of SCO at the July 9-10 summit, upgrading their status from observers.Pakistan and India were involved in a war of words recently with leaders from both sides exchanging sharp comments after Prime Minister Modi’s critical remarks about Pakistan during his Dhaka visit last month and in the wake of India’s military action in Myanmar.
Meanwhile, Modi had called up Sharif last month to greet him on the holy month of Ramzan. Pakistan government sources had earlier said that the onus was on India for arranging a meeting between Modi and Sharif in Russia as the Pakistani PM’s hands have been tied following rhetoric and current “anti-India” public sentiment in Pakistan.
Islamabad is also thinking upping the ante at the UN amid India slamming China for blocking a move by the world body to censure Pakistan for inaction against Lakhvi. A Pakistani government official described diplomacy as the art of making impossible a possible and did not rule out a meeting at Ufa. “While diplomatic engagements have been few and far between, the two PMs have been in touch over the phone and therefore there has been engagement at the political level,” the official said.
The last high-level contact between the two sides happened when Modi deputed Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar to visit Islamabad under the garb of Saarc Yatra in March, as part of his neighbourhood first policy.(Economic Times)