PM Modi, Nawaz Sharif to hold bilateral talks today

Ufa(Reuters): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold bilateral talks with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Ufa, Russia on Friday.

Ministry of External Affairs official spokesperson Vikas Swarup had taken to twitter on Thursday to share the information. “It is confirmed. PM @narendramodi and PM Nawaz Sharif will have a bilateral meeting in Ufa tomorrow at 9.15 am on sidelines of SCO Summit,” he had posted.

According to reports, Prime Minister Modi will, during the talks, strongly raise India’s concerns on terror and the release of Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhavi with Pakistan. The meeting between the Prime Ministers of both countries comes a day after Pakistani troops had fired at a Border Security Force forward post in Kashmir, killing a jawan. This was the second such incident in the past week.

Setting the tone for Friday’s formal meeting, Modi and Sharif on Thursday night exchanged pleasantries and chatted briefly when they came face-to-face at a dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin for leaders of five BRICS countries and 10 SCO nations here.

The two leaders, who are here to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit, are expected to discuss the status of the bilateral ties and the future direction.

Officials said the two leaders would be reviewing the relationship and all issues could be on the table. “Terrorism for India is a major concern,” an official said, indicating that the issue could be taken up by Modi at tomorrow’s meeting.

In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said bilateral issues of importance will be discussed in the Modi-Sharif meeting. “India has proposed a meeting and Pakistan has positively responded to it,” the spokesman said.

Indian officials, while insisting that expectations should not be raised on tomorrow’s meeting, likened India- Pakistan relations to a cricket match. “You never know how the match will progress till it ends,” a senior official said.

The official was commenting while contending that there have been positive gestures in India-Pakistan relations in the recent months, like Modi calling up Sharif to greet him on Ramzan which was followed by release of fishermen by both the countries.

Earlier, Pakistani navy evacuated some Indians from war-torn Yemen while India evacuated some Pakistanis from quake-hit Nepal, he pointed out.

When pointed out that in between Pakistan was angry at some remarks made by Modi in Bangladesh with regard to Pakistan, the official said, “sometimes a cricket match is disrupted by rains.” Modi and Sharif were last together in Kathmandu in November last for the SAARC Summit but they did not have a bilateral meeting because of acrimony between the two countries at that time.