Modi, Sharif talk after a year, agree to battle terror

By Sarkaritel July 11, 2015 10:39

Modi, Sharif talk after a year, agree to battle terror

Ufa (Russia), July 11  Meeting formally for the first time after a year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Friday agreed to cooperate to eliminate terrorism and expedite the trial of those accused in the 2008 Mumbai massacre.

The breakthrough meeting, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which New Delhi and Islamabad joined as full members on Friday, drew praise from Indian strategic experts and criticism not only from the opposition but also BJP ally, the Shiv Sena.

Modi and Sharif, who arrived here on Thursday, met informally at a dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday night. Both leaders had exchanged pleasantries, setting the stage for Friday’s dialogue.

But the two leaders steered clear of the contentious Kashmir issue during the hour-long talks, informed sources said. NSA Ajit Doval was later quoted by NDTV news channel as saying there was “no mention” of Kashmir during the talks.

India and Pakistan “agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples”, a joint statement said.

A total of 166 people, including foreigners, were killed in the November 26-28 Mumbai terror carnage unleashed by 10 Pakistani gunmen.

Foreign secretaries S. Jaishankar of India and Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary of Pakistan said the Modi-Sharif meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere. Both the foreign secretaries refused to take questions after taking turns to read out the joint statement.

“They (Modi and Sharif) agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development,” the joint statement said.

“To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues. Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia.”

It said Modi had agreed to visit Pakistan for the 2016 SAARC Summit.

They agreed that their National Security Advisors would meet in New Delhi to discuss issues connected to terrorism. The chiefs of the Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers would also meet, followed by the two Director Generals of Military Operations.

India and Pakistan decided to free fishermen in each other’s custody within 15 days and put in a mechanism to facilitate religious tourism.

Modi and Sharif met in November 2014 during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu but did not hold any bilateral meeting.

Asked if he was happy with his meeting with Modi, Sharif said: “Yes!”

In New Delhi, the BJP called the meeting “a breakthrough”, saying for the first time Pakistan “has accepted our definition of terrorism”.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh called it a “step forward” in normalising bilateral relations.

The Congress, however, demanded to know what made Modi change his mind vis-a-vis leading to Friday’s meeting.

“Pakistan killed an Indian soldier … and Modi is meeting Sharif… This is the government that made tall claims that they will teach a lesson to Pakistan,” Congress leader Meem Afzaal said.

The Congress also said that the BJP’s claim that the Modi-Sharif meeting was a “breakthrough” was “laughable”.

BJP ally Shiv Sena called the meeting “unfortunate”.

Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said: “It is unfortunate Modiji met Sharif. There has been no change in the conditions (on the border).”

Kashmiri separatist Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the Kashmir issue is a “core issue which can neither be ignored nor sidelined”.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader and former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told private Express TV channel that Kashmir should have been mentioned in the joint statement and it was “quite strange” that it was left out.

The US welcomed the meeting, saying the tension between the two South Asian neighbours was not in anyone’s interest.

Former Indian foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh told IANS: “On the whole, it is a positive development.”

But he said the Modi-Sharif talks were “not substantive talks but talks about talks. So this was not really a dialogue but a discussion on a dialogue. And even then it is not complete because what they have decided is that several discussions will take place in some key sectors and only then will a view be taken on a dialogue”.

By Sarkaritel July 11, 2015 10:39