SAARC summit: Narendra Modi, Nawaz Sharif shake hands, but no talks
KATHMANDU: After the cold vibes on Wednesday, Prime
Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif shared some
warmth on Thursday, as they shook hands and shared a laugh at the end of the
18th SAARC summit here.
After the summit got over, Modi was seen talking to
Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, while Sharif was seen talking to Sri
Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Modi and Sharif then moved on to other
leaders, meeting them and shaking hands, till they came face to face. As they
shook hands and laughed, the other delegates, including SAARC foreign
ministers, foreign secretaries and officials, applauded.
While there was no substantive talk or a meeting
between the two leaders on Thursday, they did spend almost three hours in a
“convivial” atmosphere at the Dhulikhel retreat along with the remaining six
They exchanged pleasantries at the Dhulikhel retreat,
and were seen talking to each other in smaller groups. They were also seated at
the same table for lunch. “Dhulikhel mein baat bhi hui, mulaqat bhi hui (They
met and spoke in Dhulikhel),” said Syed Akbaruddin, the Ministry of External
Affairs’ official spokesperson.
“India is for peaceful and cooperative relations with
Pakistan. We are for meaningful dialogue. If this handshake leads to that, we
welcome that,” he said. When asked to define “meaningful”, Akbaruddin said, “As
diplomats, we are translucent. Our interlocutors (from Pakistan) know what we
Officials said the leaders were on their own at
Dhulikhel, and nobody else was privy to their discussions. Modi spent a lot of
time with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Bhutan President Tshering Tobgay.
Nepal government sources told The Indian Express that
Koirala made an informal suggestion to Modi to take the lead and break the ice
with Sharif. The Indian side said Koirala created an “enabling environment” at
the retreat for the leaders to get together informally.
The SAARC foreign ministers and foreign secretaries
were also present in Dhulikhel in separate groups. When asked if External
Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistan counterpart Sartaj Aziz had any
substantive discussion, the MEA spokesperson said, “There was no discussion of
substantive nature at any level (with Pakistan).”Modi was also seen applauding
before and after Sharif’s vote of thanks as the host for the next SAARC Summit
in Islamabad next year. When asked if Modi would visit Pakistan when Islamabad
hosts the SAARC summit in 2016, Akbaruddin said, “It is standard practice to
host the summits in an alphabetical manner. And it is courtesy to applaud.”