Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Russia on Wednesday for the BRICS and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) summits where he is expected to hold a host of world leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping.
Modi is also likely to have a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, but there is no official announcement yet. The Prime Minister’s confirmed itinerary in Ufa only mentions his bilateral meetings with BRICS leaders and the presidents of Iran and Afghanistan, but Indian sources said there is a strong possibility of the prime ministers of India and Pakistan “breaking the ice” in a meeting.
The external affairs ministry refused to confirm or deny the meeting between Modi and Sharif despite repeated queries. Pakistani sources said India had requested a meeting with Sharif and the two governments are open to having an "interaction between the two prime ministers though it may not be in a structured format" on the sidelines of summits. Sharif too arrives in Ufa on Wednesday.
At the SCO summit, India and Pakistan are expected to get full membership of the security grouping that includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Russia and China. India was made an observer of the grouping in 2005.
Ufa, nestled by the Volga river and Ural mountain ranges, the host city of both SCO and BRICS summit could provide an opportunity for Modi is to push his central Asia connectivity as he is meeting Iran president Hassan Rouhani.
Sharif, who attended Modi's inaugural ceremony last May, had a short informal interaction with the Indian Prime Minister on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Nepal last November. Though the NDA government has made considerable progress in its neighbourhood first policy, its ties with Pakistan remains a tangled affair in the absence of a formal dialogue.
Though the two leaders spoke over telephone on many occasions, ties have been tense after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike in 2008. The NDA government had called off a meeting between two foreign secretaries after the Pakistani envoy had a meeting with Hurriyat leaders in August last year.
In recent times, there has been a thaw in ties following Modi’s telephone call to the Pakistani leader to greet him on the occasion of Ramadan and two countries subsequently releasing fishermen held in each other’s jails. Modi is set to air India’s concerns over the issue of terrorism with the Pakistani Prime Minister.