UFA, RUSSIA (TIP): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif met here on Friday, July 10, after a gap of more than seven months resolving to move the bilateral relationship on to a firmer plane.
The meeting took place at the initiative of PM Modi and proved to be an ice breaker.
Advisor Sartaz Aziz and Pakistan Foreign minister accompanied Sharif while Indian National Security Adviser Doval and Foreign Secretary Jaishanker attended the meeting with Modi which lasted about 50 minutes against the scheduled 30 minutes.
While the Indian delegation took up the issue of release of Lakhwi allegedly involved in Mumbai attack, the Pakistan delegation alleged India’s alleged involvement in Baluchistan. They also discussed cross border terrorism.
“The two leaders discussed all issues of importance to both sides” said a spokesman later.
Asked if the meeting might see a reduction in the tension that has characterized India-Pakistan relations in the past few months, a Pakistani spokesperson described the meeting as a “positive development”.
The foreign secretaries of the two countries jointly addressed the media and said it was a cordial meeting. It was agreed upon that a meeting of the National Security advisors of the two countries would be held shortly followed by those of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers.
It was decided to expedite trial in Mumbai attack case and to take steps to promote religious tourism. It was also decided to release fishermen in each other’s custody within 15 days along with their boats.
Nawaz Sharif reiterated his invitation to Modi to visit Pakistan for the next Saarc summit to which Modi has agreed.
Modi and Sharif will later attend the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation , where SCO leaders are expected to make a formal announcement of their decision to admit India and Pakistan as members.
The only substantive meeting the two leaders have had so far was in Delhi soon after Modi took oath as Prime Minister. Sharif was one of several South Asian leaders who attended the ceremony in what was meant to be the Modi government’s signal that it was according top priority to the subcontinent in its foreign policy.
It was announced in July 2014 that the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan would meet in Islamabad in August to explore ways of taking the relationship forward. But a week before that meeting was to take place, India cancelled the talks citing the Pakistan high commissioner’s decision to invite Hurriyat leaders for consultations as the reason.
Since then, despite a brief encounter between the two PMs in Kathmandu during the Saarc summit in November and the visit to Islamabad of Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar earlier this year, relations between India and Pakistan have been in freefall.
The situation along the Line of Control and even the International Boundary saw several weeks of intense firing with each side blaming the other for starting the provocation. A BSF jawan was killed in a firing incident on Thursday leading to escalation in tension.
Leaders in both countries had also sharpened their rhetoric in the past, with the Pakistani defence minister and foreign policy advisor accusing India of fomenting acts of terror within Pakistan. In recent weeks, however, both India and Pakistan appear to have made some effort to soften the rhetoric. Modi telephoned Sharif at the onset of Ramzan, spoke about the need for peaceful relations and said India was going to release detained Pakistani fishermen, a gesture of goodwill for the holy Islamic month.
Soon after, India released 88 Pakistani fishermen, while Pakistan reciprocated by freeing 111 Indian fishermen.