NEW DELHI:The ice was finally broken, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif returned to talks on Friday, after an year of acrimonious rhetoric, interspersed with sullen silence.
That the doors will now remain open for talks was indicated by Modi’s acceptance of Sharif’s invitation to visit Pakistan next year for the Saarc summit.
Based on India’s request, the leaders met at the conference complex for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in the Russian city of Ufa on Friday morning. Sharif walked into the room, where Modi stood and waited at one end with his senior officials also on their feet. While Sharif had to cover a relatively large distance, Modi took only a few steps, before they shook hands. The smiles were there, but restrained.
Despite the subdued body language, the outcome was much more than expected. In an unprecedented gesture, the Indian and Pakistan foreign secretaries read out the joint statement — Aizaz Chaudhary read out the first part, followed by S Jaishankar, quoting from the rest.
The short document began by addressing terrorism, which has been India’s main concern. On the stalled judicial process in the 26/11 case, it said, “Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like voice samples”. India has repeatedly asked for the voice samples of seven accused of 26/11 attacks, including Hafiz Saeed, Lakhvi and “Major Samir”.
They also agreed to release fishermen with their boats in 15 days and evaluate a mechanism for facilitating religious tourism.
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