Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold bilateral meetings with all SAARC leaders, except Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of the regional group’s summit on Wednesday.
Six years to the day since the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Mr. Modi will meet Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen.
But despite pressure from host Nepal, no meeting could be scheduled between Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif.
The Indian and Pakistani leaders will, however, come face to face at the SAARC inaugural session, then during a joint call on Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav and at a banquet hosted by Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala.
Mr. Modi, who marks six months in office on November 26, is expected to include a tough message on fighting terror in his speech at the inaugural session.
The “ball is now in India’s court for talks between both the countries,” Mr. Sharif told a Pakistani television channel. Mr. Sharif called India’s cancellation of Foreign Secretary-level talks in August a “unilateral decision.”
Responding to the remarks, spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said: “India is always ready for dialogue, but it must be meaningful. Pakistan knows us and recognises what we mean.”
Sources in the Nepali government said officials were still hopeful that the two leaders would have a “pull-aside” at the leader’s retreat in the town of Dhulikhel on the outskirts of Kathmandu on Thursday. But neither side was inclined to discuss the possibility.
“There will always be an exchange of courtesies when leaders and diplomats meet,” Mr. Akbaruddin said. “But that does not mean a meaningful, structured dialogue is being held.”