India-Pakistan Agree Top Army Officers Will Meet in Person, PM Modi to Visit Pakistan

UFA, RUSSIA(Reuters): Big breakthroughs were announced after a meeting today between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif including a meeting between their National Security Advisors to tackle terrorism, and a push for more frequent and face-to-face contact between senior army officers.

India-Pakistan Agree Top Army Officers Will Meet in Person, PM Modi to Visit Pakistan

The Prime Minister has also accepted an invite to travel next year to Pakistan to attend the regional SAARC Summit.

The announcements were made after a meeting between the Prime Ministers that began with a warm handshake and ran longer than planned. Then, in a surprise move, their Foreign Secretaries appeared together – a rare occurrence – to read out a joint statement.

The statement makes no reference to Kashmir, nor was it brought up by Mr Sharif, said sources, which has resulted in sharp criticism for him in Pakistan.

Mr Modi and Mr Sharif met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the Russian city of Ufa.

The initiatives announced were attacked by the opposition Congress as a weakening of the government’s earlier tough stand on Pakistan. “Using the words ‘breakthrough’ and ‘historic understanding’ is laughable,” Congress leader Anand Sharma said, adding, “India is expected to make a statement which has depth and maturity”. The government, however, said that Pakistan had been told again about the need to tackle terrorism. ” The PM had said earlier too that he is in favour of good relations with Pakistan,” said minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Mr Sharif attended PM Modi’s swearing-in ceremony last year. But soon, the worst cross-border violence in Jammu and Kashmir in over a decade left relations placed vertiginously. Then India cancelled talks of Foreign Secretaries after the Pakistani envoy insisted on hosting Kashmiri separatists.

Today’s joint statement said that top army commanders of the Pakistani Rangers and India’s Border Security Force will meet in person in an attempt to de-escalate the tension along the Jammu and Kashmir border. So far, their contact is restricted largely to a weekly conversation over a hotline.