Sharif & Modi Will Only Shake Hands For Now

ISLAMABAD: When the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan- Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) meet in Kathmandu on November 26 and 27, there’s a good chance of a ‘handshake’ between the two, according to reports appearing in the Pakistani media. However, there is no proposal from either side for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the summit, and very bleak possibilities that it might happen, the reports suggest.  

The Express Tribune quotes anonymous Pakistani government sources as saying “There will be a formal handshake but no bilateral meeting is planned as yet” on the sidelines of the Saarc Summit. “At this stage neither side has shown any interest in arranging a bilateral meeting between the two leaders,” they said. 

Recently, in an interview to BBC Urdu, Syed Tariq Fatemi - Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs to Nawaz Sharif said, the onus of resuming the dialogue process was now on India. “India would now have to make the first move to start the stalled peace talks,” he said.

The Pakistani daily reports that signals coming from New Delhi were not encouraging as the Indian external affairs ministry rejected reports regarding the possibility of a Nawaz-Modi meeting in Kathmandu. 

At a press briefing in New Delhi on 31 October, the spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs- Syed Akbaruddin, had said in answer to a query that there is "no such proposal at hand" and that the issue is not under discussion. He added that no request has been received from Pakistan for such a meeting and that "there is no request that we intend to give”. 

"That is where we are," he said, adding that “When we have not decided on this, anything else you write is based on your thinking of it.” He went on to say, “There is still more than a month to the SAARC summit. Before that there are many other summits… focus on those. Do not do this kite-flying for something which is more than a month in advance.”

However, conversely, the Express Tribune reports that “some sources claimed” that a meeting between the two leaders could still be possible given the fact that “some world powers, particularly the United States, would want de-escalation of tension between the two neighbours.”

It says, according to sources, Pakistan’s army chief General Raheel Sharif, who is travelling to Washington, on November 16, would brief the American civil and military leadership about the worsening situation along the Line of Control (LoC) and Working Boundary.

Sources said the army chief would convey to the US leadership that the worsening situation along the LoC and Working Boundary could have negative implications for the country’s campaign against extremism. “We have no interest whatsoever to open another front when we are already preoccupied with the ongoing operation Zarb-e-Azb,” said a security source.

Holding India responsible for the current situation, another official insisted that New Delhi wanted to declare Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’ by ratcheting up tensions.

Relations between India and Pakistan have nosedived over continuing firing across the border which has led to casualties on both sides. India called off the foreign secretary level talks in August over the Pakistan envoy meeting Kashmiri separatists.

Pakistan has also been continually raking up the issue at the UN, asking the international community to intervene in the "core issue of Kashmir".

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