First day in the job, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Tuesday asked his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif to clamp down on terror and fast track trade to bridge the trust deficit between the two neighbours.
A day after he was sworn in as India’s 15th PM, Modi had a packed day, meeting leaders of Saarc countries invited to his oath ceremony but it was his afternoon meeting with Sharif at Hyderabad House that was closely watched.
“The Prime Minister clearly articulated all our concerns over terrorism,” foreign secretary Sujatha Singh said. “It was conveyed that Pakistan must abide by its commitment to prevent its territory and territory under its control from being used for terrorism against India.”
The two leaders shook hands and smiled for cameras before heading into the meeting at Hyderabad House. At the 44-minute meeting that ran overtime, Modi also raised concerns over the slow progress in the trial of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack accused even as both leaders agreed on foreign secretaries keeping in touch with each other to bring the stalled dialogue process back on track.
A forward movement in the trial would give the government necessary political capital at home to move ahead. When in opposition, the BJP had taken a hard line on talks with Pakistan.
Modi’s decision –- a first for India -- to invite leaders of all seven South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries for the swearing-in has been read as an attempt to reach out to neighbours.
India is the eighth member-country of the grouping. Mauritius, too, was on the guest list.
Modi told Sharif the two countries could immediately move towards normalisation of trade. Pakistan delay in granting India the most-favoured nation status, too, came up.
“There was discussion on trade and we noted we were fully ready to fully normalise trade and economic relations,” Singh said.
Sharif talked about the clear mandate both the governments had while calling for breaking new grounds and ending mistrust between the two sides.
“Prime Minister Modi warmly reciprocated my sentiments. He stated that it was incumbent on both of us to work together, to achieve our common objectives for peace and development,” Sharif, who took three days to decide on oath ceremony invite, told mediapersons.
They had agreed that foreign secretaries would meet soon to review and carry forward “our bilateral agenda”, said Sharif who left for Pakistan in the evening.
Indian side, said sources, was pleased that the Pakistan PM didn’t meet Hurriyat leaders and also didn’t rake up controversial issues like Kashmir.