Balancing concerns about Kashmir at home with the need to show to the world India remains engaged with Pakistan, the public announcement of the expected Manmohan Singh-Nawaz Sharif meeting will be held back until the last minute. The meeting itself will pared to absolute minimum, say official sources.
In an indication preparations are continuing, Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bashir met National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon on Tuesday.
The most likely window for the meeting will be September 29 in New York City. Singh is in Washington on the 27th and Sharif will be speaking before at the United Nations the day after.
There will be no substantive agenda, say several Indian officials, and the meeting will be short, with even plans for a bilateral breakfast being jettisoned. Singh will be expected to raise the rise in tensions along the Line of Control and terrorist activity inside Kashmir.
The meeting’s primary purpose will be to show to the international community that India and Pakistan are still talking. Without such niceties, say Indian officials, rhetoric about the two countries being a “nuclear flashpoint” is resurrected and attempts at outside diplomatic interference over Kashmir increase. This will be “a meeting for meeting’s sake.”
Singh would like to affirm his support for Sharif. The Pakistani leader, author of the Lahore peace process, is a strong advocate of bilateral economic ties and peaceful relations.
Even while campaigning, Sharif had warned New Delhi his country’s India policy would be set by the Pakistan military and the civilian leadership.
With Sharif in the midst of choosing a new chief of army staff and Inter-Services Intelligence head, both of which must be chosen by November 30, he is in no position to push an ambitious agenda with India.
Besides the uptick in Kashmir violence, Pakistan is uppermost in the minds of the Indian security establishment after two recent high-profile terrorists — Yasin Bhatkal and Abdul Karim Tunda — admitted after capture that they worked for the ISI.
Some of the security agencies fear a Singh-Sharif meeting will signal India sees this level of violence as acceptable.