A 'structured dialogue' between Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif is not possible now. At best, in an informal retreat on Thursday morning, the two leaders may 'exchange courtesies' - which they avoided doing while sharing the stage at the inaugural session of SAARC on Wednesday.
The body language was stiff, they avoided looking each other in the eye, and the cold vibes were for all to see.
MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said there had been no request from the Pakistani side, and thus no meeting. When asked if this was a 'missed opportunity' for talks could have been used to push for speedy trials of those implicated in Mumbai attacks, he said, "if meetings could have sped it up, we would have had N number of meetings...don't jump to hasty conclusions that a meeting would change the entire approach." He reiterated that India stands 'ready to engage when they are ready for meaningful dialogue.'
Akbaruddin was clear that as diplomats and as leaders of countries with 'civilisational heritage of being polite', if a senior Indian and Pakistani leader came face to face, there may be 'exchange of courtesies'. "But this does not translate into dialogue."
In 2002, right after the parliament attack, during the SAARC summit here in Kathmandu, President Pervez Musharraf had walked up to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and shook his hands. This time, so far, even a mere handshake is missing. Nepal, as SAARC chair, however is hoping that the Thursday retreat will change that. "I think they may spend a few minutes together," said one official, adding he was also speculating like much of the town.