Modi, Sharif to meet in Russia

Bilateral engagement at India’s request.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in Ufa, Russia, on Friday. They are in the town to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit beginning Thursday.

The sit-down bilateral meeting will be their first in more than a year, sources in New Delhi and Islamabad said on Wednesday.

The Hindu has learnt that the meeting comes at India’s request, made by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar to his Pakistani counterpart, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhury, through a message conveyed by the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, TCA Raghavan, on July 3.

The meeting follows several high-level contacts, including a call made by Mr. Modi to Mr. Sharif on June 16 and a meeting between Mr. Jaishankar and Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit on June 22.

Given that Mr. Modi, who is known to push for tangible results from his meetings, has made the request, expectations are that the two leaders will announce some agreement on the course of dialogue. Sources said the two leaders might try to work on what could be announced at this stage: mainly agreeing to promote business-to-business exchanges, ease passage for businessmen, extend visa terms and issue multiple visas for bus travellers.

Pak. says it will not accept any ‘red lines’ on dialogue

With Mr. Modi meeting his Pakistani counterpart in Ufa on Friday, Pakistan has made it clear that it will not accept any “red lines” on dialogue, stating officially that all talks will include the issue of Kashmir and that contacts with the Hurriyat leadership will be maintained.

On Wednesday, a Pakistani Minister said in Parliament that there was “no scope” for banning the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, one of India’s consistent demands on acting against the 26/11 accused. Official sources said the meeting reflected the Indian understanding that the “fundamentals of the India-Pakistan relationship will not change”. Despite Indian apprehensions that the military holds the upper hand on all India-Pakistan contacts, a dialogue of some sort is believed to be necessary “as long as there is no terror attack or incident at the LoC” that could turn public opinion in India against the dialogue again.

The question of who initiated the request for the meeting in Russia is significant as India had cancelled Foreign Secretary-level talks last August as Pakistani High Commissioner Abdul Basit met Hurriyat leaders. After that, despite being in the same places on two occasions, in New York in September and Kathmandu in November, the two leaders had failed to schedule a bilateral meeting.

In an interview at the time, Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz told The Hindu that “India broke off the talks; so talks can only be held if India initiates them.” Since then, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar visited Islamabad in March to meet his counterpart during a “SAARC Yatra” initiated by Mr. Modi, but the government fell short of calling it a resumption of dialogue.

Recently, tensions rose over India’s counter-terrorism operations against militants in Myanmar, with the government’s suggestion that a similar operation could be pursued with Pakistan.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 1:33:10 AM |

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