Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of a summit in the Russian city of Ufa on Friday, raising hopes of a thaw in frosty ties between the South Asian rivals.
Officials described the meeting as a positive development as the two sides 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.
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 Ramadan followed by a decision by the two countries to release fishermen in each other’s jails.
“It is confirmed. The two prime ministers will have a bilateral meeting at 915 am Friday on the sidelines of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) summit,” said MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup.
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."
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.
India sought action against Pakistan for releasing the top terrorist at the United Nations last month but was blocked by China which said India didn’t provide adequate information – a move that Modi described as disappointing in his meeting with Chinese PM Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
But a Chinese foreign ministry official defended Beijing’s actions on Thursday, saying the decision was taken based on “facts” and in the spirit of "objectiveness and fairness".
Both India and Pakistan are set to become full-time members of the SCO club of Russia, China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan at the summit.