ASTANA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today attended a reception and a gala show, marking the beginning of the two-day-long SCO Summit, even as speculation swirled over a possible meeting between him and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to defuse tensions in bilateral ties.
Modi, Sharif, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping were among the top leaders who attended the reception hosted by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev. It was not known whether Modi and Sharif exchanged pleasantries at the reception, but they were seated far apart from each other in a horizontal row.
When asked whether he will have a meeting with Modi, Sharif, before leaving for the reception, only smiled and waved at the media persons which many interpreted as an indication of a possible meeting or at least a pull aside between the two leaders.
Sartaj Aziz, the Pakistan Prime Minister's Advisor on Foreign Affairs, too did not respond to a query on a possible Modi-Sharif tete-e-tete. India has been maintaining that there was neither any request from the Pakistani side nor any such proposal from the Indian side for a Modi-Sharif meeting.
Both Modi and Sharif arrived here today to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit which will tomorrow induct both India and Pakistan as its full members.
Ties between India and Pakistan have nosedived over a range of issues including beheading of two soldiers by the Pakistan military along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir and the death sentence handed down to former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav by a military court in Pakistan on charges of spying. The International Court of Justice has stayed Jadhav's execution.
The Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir has also been witnessing rising tensions. The events related to the SCO Summit got underway with a spectacular concert this evening. Indian classical dance Kathak was the first to be featured after the host nation Kazakhstan's ensemble.
Eight dancers from Bengaluru-based NADAM put up 'Mahaganapathim' -- an ode to the god of auspicious beginnings, Lord Ganesha. India was the only observer country to perform in the concert which featured traditional and western classical music and dance performances from China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, apart from the hosts.