Ufa (Russia): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif today – in a much anticipated meeting that could likely set off an improvement in bilateral ties.
“It is confirmed. PM @narendramodi and PM Nawaz Sharif will have a bilateral meeting in Ufa today at 9.15 am on sidelines of SCO Summit,” Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted on Thursday.
All issues, including terrorism and trade, are expected to be on the table when the two leaders meet.
Modi and Sharif, who arrived here on Thursday, are set to meet informally at a dinner on Thursday night.
The Pakistani Foreign Office also confirmed the meeting.
“I can confirm that Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi will be having a bilateral meeting today (Friday) morning in Ufa and there is no ambiguity about it,” Foreign Office spokesman Qazi M. Khalilullah said in his media briefing in Islamabad.
Khalilullah said “all important issues would come under discussion”.
The confirmation of the meeting puts to rest speculation that was rife for weeks of a likely meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.
The meeting comes days after Modi telephoned Sharif on June 16 to convey Ramadan greetings and stressed the need for peaceful and bilateral ties.
India had also released 88 Pakistani fishermen, while Pakistan freed 111 Indians.
Modi and Sharif met in November last year during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, but they did not hold any bilateral meeting. Pakistan had stymied a SAARC agreement on Motor Vehicles during the summit that was intended to improve connectivity between the South Asian nations.
The two leaders had held a bilateral meeting on May 26 last year during the swearing-in of Modi. The two had exchanged gifts, the sari-shawl diplomacy, and tweets, which had given rise to hope of improvement in ties between the two rivals, both nuclear powers.
But continuing firing on the border, in violation of the ceasefire which claimed the lives of security personnel, and the Pakistani envoy hobnobbing with Kashmiri separatists last August saw India calling off foreign secretary-level talks at the last moment.
Ties saw a downswing after that, and Pakistan’s raising the Kashmir issue at international forums did not help matters.
The release of 26/11 mastermind Zakiur-Rehman Lakhvi, despite India voicing concerns, also added to India’s concerns.
Today’s meeting is likely to see Modi take up India’s concern over the release of Lakhvi by a court in Pakistan.
The Indian Army’s precision attack on a northeast militant camp in Myanmar last month had provoked sharp words from Pakistan, including its military, with the message that “Pakistan is not Myanmar”.
The Pakistani parliament passed a resolution condemning India’s ‘hegemonic’ mindset and former president Pervez Musharraf went to the extent of issuing nuclear threats.
The Modi-Sharif meeting comes as a BSF trooper was killed in cross-border firing in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.