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Modi to visit Pakistan next year

Meeting with Sharif in Ufabreaks stalemate in relations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Ufa, Russia, ended with an announcement that he would visit Islamabad in 2016 for the SAARC summit, but made no commitment on restarting dialogue.

In a joint statement after the meeting that lasted more than an hour at the Congress Hall of Ufa, the Prime Ministers tasked Foreign Secretaries S. Jaishankar and Aizaz Chowdhury with announcing a five-pronged statement of progress in their discussions, including meetings between National Security Advisers Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz and between military and border security force chiefs of the two nations, and “discussing ways and means” to expedite the Mumbai 26/11 trial and “providing voice samples” as evidence.

They discussed humanitarian gestures of releasing more than 300 fishermen held on each side, and promoting a “mechanism for religious tourism” that will help Hindu, Muslim and Sikh pilgrims on the two sides. Leaving for Turkmenistan on Friday, Mr. Modi recorded on his Twitter handle that he was “satisfied” with all his meetings at the BRICS and SCO summits, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told presspersons that the talks had been “great”.

The NSAs will meet in New Delhi in August, ahead of the next possible meeting between the Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. Sources said the discussions between Mr. Doval and Mr. Aziz would be the “most important” as it would discuss the outstanding issue for India on cross-border terror groups and action against Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and other Mumbai attack accused.

Lakhvi, who was the operations commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba which had trained Ajmal Kasab and the other terrorists that attacked Mumbai, was given bail by a Pakistani trial court in April and has subsequently been exempted from personal appearances in court. In May, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had said that unless Pakistan took action against Lakhvi and other terrorists, dialogue “would not materialise”.

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