Climate changing? Modi-Sharif meeting in Paris sparks guessing game

Modi Sharif Paris

PARIS/NEW DELHI: Has the climate changed in the perennially prickly India-Pakistan relations? Or was it the Paris magic and collective pressure to cut out on  emissions (read bad vibes)?. Whatever it was, the 160-second meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan in Paris has made banner headlines, overshadowing more substantive discussions on the opening day of the global climate summit that is expected to birth a new green future for the planet and its inhabitants.  

Signaling a change in atmospherics clouded by noxious fumes of distrust and mutual accusations that have marred relations between the two subcontinental neighbours, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif smiled and shook hands as they briefly met during the climate summit on November 30. India’s Ministry of External Affairs confirmed the unofficial meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Paris. The meeting, the first between the two leaders after they had met in the Russian city of Ufa in July on the sidelines of the SCO summit, renews hope of resuming dialogue between the two countries.

Mr Sharif struck a positive note after the meeting. The talks took place “in a cordial atmosphere…cordial manner,” said the Pakistani leader. “If both sides want that issues should be taken forward, then it is not possible that these will not be taken forward,” he said.

The much-hyped meeting took place in the backdrop of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. After the proposed meeting between the National Security Advisors of both countries in August got cancelled at the eleventh hour, the chill had deepened in India-Pakistan relations. Mr Modi and Mr Sharif attended the 70th anniversary of UNGA in New York in September, but had only waved at each other.

An aide to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon promptly welcomed the meeting. “Obviously, if the meeting did take place, we welcome it,” the spokesman of Mr Ban, Stephane Dujarric told reporters when asked for the UN chief’s response to the meeting between the two South Asian leaders on the margins of climate conference. US -Vice President Joe Biden termed the meeting between the two South Asia leaders as “an important step forward.”

The thoughtful huddle, as seen in photographs splashed in leading newspapers, opens up possibilities of resuming dialogue between the two estranged neighbours, but given the volatility of India-Pakistan relations, one is not sure if it’s just another deceptive signal.

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