NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif returned to talks on Friday, after a year, in Ufa, Russia.
This was their first structured meeting since Sharif met Modi in New Delhi, a day after attending the swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan in May last year.
The short bilateral document began by addressing the terror issue, which has been India’s main concern.
“They agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development,” said the joint statement by the nations’ foreign secretaries.
The kicker followed. “To do so, they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues,” it added.
The reference to “all” issues, of course, means Kashmir. The lack of mention of the K-word in the statement was a red tag for Sharif’s political rivals, who accused him of selling out to India.
Incidentally, Pakistan did not raise Kashmir during the talks, National Security Advisor A K Doval told the media after the meeting.
India has publicly stated for long that New Delhi was ready to talk on all subjects, including Kashmir, as long as the atmosphere was terror-free. However at a press conference in June, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had claimed that talks with Pakistan were pointless as long as 26/11 mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi was free.
Reading out from the text, Pakistan foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhary said, “Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate the menace from South Asia”. This was an explicit reference to New Delhi’s complaint that Pakistan discriminated between “good” and “bad” terrorists - the former being those who only targeted India like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
Then India’s S Jaishankar picked up the thread, articulating the five steps to be taken by two countries.
The first on the list was the centerpiece of the Modi-Sharif meet as it will be the first time that National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan will be sitting down together across the table.
As per the decision, Doval, who has a larger-than-life reputation in Pakistan for his covert activities as an Intelligence Bureau operative, will meet with his Pakistani counterpart in Delhi “to discuss all issues connected to terrorism”. Sources said it could be held either in August or September. Sources said Modi had raised the issue of the release on bail of LeT commander Lakhvi - which had been seen by New Delhi as a betrayal of its overtures immediately after the brazen attack by Pakistan Taliban on the army school in Peshawar last December.