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Modi chats with Sharif over dinner, a day before bilateral talks

india Updated: Jul 10, 2015 01:51 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi interacts with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before a meeting in New Delhi on May 27, 2014. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/ Hindustan Times)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Thursday night at a dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a day ahead of their bilateral talks.

PTI reported that both leaders exchanged pleasantries and chatted briefly when they came face-to-face at a dinner hosted for leaders of five BRICS countries and 10 SCO nations in Ufo.

The brief interaction set the tone for Friday's formal meeting between them on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation organisation.

The two appear determined to take baby steps to resume a stalled dialogue process in spite of simmering tensions.

This will be the first structured meeting between the two leaders since Sharif attended Modi’s inauguration last May.

"We want good, friendly relations with neighbours, but conditions apply: the condition of peace being maintained in the region," said national security adviser Ajit Doval.

Ties between India and Pakistan nosedived after New Delhi called off talks between the foreign secretaries last August, incensed that Pakistan's envoy hosted Kashmiri separatists in the run-up to the talks.

The two leaders had a brief chat on the sidelines of the Saarc summit last November and have spoken on the phone several times.

But the ice-breaker was Modi’s recent telephone call to Sharif to greet him on Ramzan followed by a decision by the two countries to release fishermen in each other’s jails.

Indian sources, however, said red lines still existed, including an atmosphere free of violence and the absence of a third party (Hurriyat).

“It is confirmed. The two prime ministers will have a bilateral meeting at 9:15am on Friday on the sidelines of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) summit,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

Sources said all issues of mutual concern will be raised at the meeting which was sought by the Indian side. But India’s concerns about Pakistan’s efforts to curb terrorism and bring the 2008 Mumbai attackers are key to taking the peace process forward.

Despite pressure from New Delhi, progress against the accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks has remained tardy, especially the release of Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi that continues to be an irritant in bilateral ties.

Pakistan said the meeting will see a "comprehensive exchange on all issues of common interest".

"It has always been Pakistan's policy to seek cordial and cooperative ties with all neighbours, including India," the Pakistani foreign office spokesperson said.

"It was in the pursuit of this objective that Pakistan prime minister would be meeting the Indian prime minister for a comprehensive exchange on all issues of common interest."


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