Terrorism and fast-tracking the trial of the 26/11 Mumbai mayhem accused predictably dominated the talks between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, the first positive meeting between them after more than a year.
Belying the undercurrents of tensions that permeate India-Pakistan relations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif shook hands, smiled and posed before hordes of paparazzi in the Russian city of Ufa. The official spin coming out of the much-hyped meeting was that it was held in a cordial atmosphere.
For a change, the meeting was more than just a photo-op meant for the international community which is always concerned about the relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals. The statement read out by foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan conjured up a positive picture of the way forward in a conflicted relationship. “They agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development. To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues,” they said. “Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia,” they added.
The two sides unveiled a five-point agenda to address concerns on terrorism and to promote people-to-people contacts between the two estranged nuclear-armed neighbours. These points of agreement included:
- A meeting in New Delhi between the two NSAs to discuss all issues connected to terrorism.
- Early meetings of DG BSF and DG Pakistan Rangers followed by that of DGMOs.
- Decision for release of fishermen in each other’s custody, along with their boats, within a period of 15 days.
- Mechanism for facilitating religious tourism.
- Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.
The meeting seemed to have paved for accelerated engagement between the two countries, with Mr Modi accepting the invitation of Mr Sharif to visit Islamabad for the SAARC summit in 2016.
The summit-level meeting in Ufa signals a thaw in bilateral ties that had skidded off the track after Pakistan’s High Commissioner invited Kashmiri separatist leaders for talks, which was immediately denounced by New Delhi and cited as the reason for cancelling the talks between the foreign secretaries in August last year.
This was the first structured meeting between the leaders of the two countries since the visit of Nawaz Sharif to New Delhi to attend the inauguration of the Modi government in May 2014.
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