There is a possibility of a meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi when they travel to Nepal this week to attend the SAARC Summit.
Citing an official, the Express Tribune reported that the two premiers may interact on the sidelines of the Summit.
“The two prime ministers will come face-to-face at the retreat ceremony in Kathmandu,” the official said.
As part of a tradition, the heads of states and governments attending the SAARC Summit are taken for a retreat after the inauguration of the conference in order to create a conducive environment for bilateral meetings.
Sharif will meet leaders of SAARC countries on the sidelines to discuss issues of bilateral and regional interest, the Foreign Office said yesterday.
However, it did not say whether Nawaz’s bilateral engagements also included a meeting with Modi.
When contacted, a senior foreign ministry official said that Pakistan had not yet received any request for such a meeting from the Indian side.
However, India today did not rule out the possibility of a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Nepal on the margins of the SAARC Summit, with External Affairs Minister saying “wait till Tuesday”.
Immediately after arriving here, Sushma Swaraj, when asked whether Modi and Sharif will have a bilateral meeting, only said “wait till Tuesday” while Pakistan’s National Security and Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz said there was no plan for such an interaction between the two leaders.
Aziz, however, said Pakistan will consider for a meeting between the two leaders if such an initiative comes from the Indian side.
“No plans yet,” Aziz told reporters when asked about a possible meeting between Modi and Sharif. Asked whether he was hopeful of a Modi-Sharif meeting, Aziz said “If the initiative comes from there (the Indian side).”
The statements by both sides did not clearly indicate whether the two Prime Ministers will meet here on the sidelines of the 18th SAARC summit where there is a growing focus on Indo-Pak issues.
A number of foreign diplomats here expressed apprehension that Indo-Pak issues may overshadow the summit and said if it does, it will be unfortunate.
Asked about Sharif’s bilateral meetings, Aziz said “one or two (meeting) are fixed. Rest are not fixed”.
Queried whether there is any possibility of his meeting with Swaraj, Aziz said “if she requests” while clarifying that no such requests have come from the Indian side.
India and Pakistan have been involved in a war of words after New Delhi cancelled a Foreign Secretary-level meeting in August after Pakistan’s envoy in India met Kashmiri separatists ahead of the talks.
On whether issues relating to India-Pakistan will overshadow the 18th SAARC summit beginning Wednesday, Aziz said, “I hope not. SAARC is more important. Lets hope SAARC is more productive.”
Expressing confidence that SAARC summit will be a success, Swaraj said she has come to Kathmandu with high hopes.
“I have come here with high hopes,” she said.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi will arrive here on Tuesday.
Since becoming Prime Minister, Modi has been stressing on strengthening the SAARC and he is likely to lay out his vision for regional cooperation in South Asia and India’s approach to harnessing the developmental potential of the region.