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Nawaz-Modi Meeting a Distinct Possibility (SAARC)

Posted by on Monday, November 24, 2014, 11:31
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Despite simmering border tensions, the prime ministers of Pakistan and India may meet on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit this week in Nepal.

Nawaz Sharif - Narendra Modi

Nawaz Sharif – Narendra Modi

Although the two nuclear-armed neighbours have repeatedly insisted that neither country has shown any interest in the bilateral meeting, The Express Tribune has learnt through reliable sources that interaction between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi is still a ‘possibility.’

“The two prime ministers will come face-to-face at the retreat ceremony in Kathmandu,” said an official while speaking on condition of anonymity. “When they face each other, do you think they will turn their backs,” the official added, suggesting the two premiers may interact on the sidelines.

As part of a tradition, the heads of states and governments attending the Saarc summit are taken for a retreat after the inauguration of the conference in order to create a conducive environment for bilateral meetings.

A statement issued by the foreign ministry said that on the sidelines of the SAARC summit, Prime Minister Nawaz would meet other leaders of member countries to discuss issues of bilateral and regional interest. However, it did not say whether Nawaz’s bilateral engagements also included a meeting with Modi.

When contacted, a senior foreign ministry official insisted that Pakistan had not yet received any request for such a meeting from the Indian side.

On the other hand, India’s NDTV network too suggested that a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian premiers was a possibility. “They [Nawaz and Modi] are bound to speak even if it is not a structured dialogue,” it quoted sources as saying.

However, the spokesperson for India’s external affairs ministry remained noncommittal about a bilateral meeting between the two prime ministers. “The prime minister’s [Modi’s] intention is to have meaningful dialogue with as many of our South Asian colleagues as possible. This would mean taking into account all aspects of our relationship,” Syed Akbaruddin was quoted by the Press Trust of India (PTI) as saying. The Saarc summit is scheduled to take place in Kathmandu on November 26-27. Prime Minister Nawaz will lead a Pakistani delegation to attend the gathering, whose theme this year is ‘Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity’.

“Pakistan attaches high importance to Saarc and is committed to the Saarc process. Pakistan firmly believes that given the resources, the Saarc region has the potential to become the engine for global economic growth for the 21st century,” the foreign office statement said.

The summit would be preceded by the preparatory meetings at the senior official and ministerial level. The foreign secretary is presently in Kathmandu to represent Pakistan in the Saarc Standing Committee Meeting, followed by the Saarc Council of Ministers Meeting on November 25, which will be attended by Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaz Aziz.

India amenable to discussing Kashmir

In response to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s request to US President Barack Obama regarding the Kashmir dispute, India on Sunday said the issue can only be discussed under the framework for dialogue agreed with Pakistan.

“We are for cooperative and peaceful ties with Pakistan and the framework for achieving that is already specified and agreed to between our two countries as part of the Simla Agreement… the same was reiterated much later during the Lahore declaration between (former) prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif,” PTI quoted Akbaruddin as saying.

“There is a simple two-way street to promote peaceful, cooperative ties between India and Pakistan and that is meaningful bilateral dialogue.”

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