Modi-Sharif bonhomie under Strain

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Pakistani Counterpart Nawaz Sharif during a meeting at UFA in Russia on Friday, July 10. (Photo courtesy PTI)

NEW DELHI (TIP) : The bonhomie emerging from the meeting between the Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa last weekend appeared too good to be true.

Perhaps for the first time, Pakistan had not insisted on the ‘K’ word – or Kashmir issue – in a joint statement. The joint statement by the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries was also vague on specifics and was open to different interpretations by both sides.

The backlash from the Pakistan media and ‘intelligentsia’ was expected and instant. Pakistan TV anchors and debaters cried foul and forced the government to back off and issue an official clarification.

Sharif’s Adviser on National Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who was present in the meeting between the two PMs, said on Monday, July 13 that “no dialogue will take place with India unless the Kashmir issue is included in the agenda”.

Aziz released a two-page statement asked for “more evidence and information ” from India in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case” even though the joint statement after Modi-Sharif talks had said that the two sides will find ways to expedite the 26/11 trial. The Indian Government has been affirming that it has supplied sufficient information and evidence to nail the accused in the attack.

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The statement issued on behalf of the Pakistan Government also said that Sharif had sought information on the trail of Samjhauta Express terrorist incident.

While the joint statement had referred to the need to curb terrorist activity, the two sides had a different interpretation. The Indian side took it as a reference to the militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan has said it was deeply concerned “about Indian interference in Pakistan, including continuing support for insurgency in Balochistan”.

Aziz said it was to address these “acrimonious concerns” that the National Security Advisers of the two countries will meet.

Taking this (the proposed meeting of the two NSAs) as an indication, the Indian side claimed that there was no U-turn and that the talks would continue.

However given the mood, particularly of the hawks on either side, not much progress is expected in the near future. That the Pakistan government had to come out with a clarification to clear its stand is enough indication that it was skidding on thin ice. The situation can change a little by the time Prime Minister Modi visits Pakistan next year for the Saarc meet, provided the two sides handle the situation in a more mature manner.

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