Talks will go on, why can’t we be like leaders in Europe: Modi, Sharif

As Sharif nodded in agreement, the two expressed determination to not let adverse incidents disrupt such meetings, a source privy to the conversation between the two PMs told The Indian Express.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: December 28, 2015 9:46 am
narendra modi, narendra modi in lahore, Modi in Pakistan, Modi sharif meeting, Modi meets sharif, modi in pakistan, modi sharif, NSA, india news, pakistan news, latest news, top stories, indian express Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif (Source: PIB)

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif on Friday, one of the first things he is learnt to have told his Pakistani host is: “Why can’t we be like leaders in Europe, who meet each other for casual get-togethers and chats?”

As Sharif nodded in agreement, the two expressed determination to not let adverse incidents disrupt such meetings, a source privy to the conversation between the two PMs told The Indian Express.

While the two leaders agreed that this could be easier said than done, sources said Modi and Sharif were firm about trying their best to maintain contact at the highest level.

Another matter on which both leaders agreed “in principle” was to keep the dialogue between National Security Advisers “rock solid” and “intact”. “The leaders decided that even in the worst-case scenarios, come what may, the NSAs must be in touch with each other,” sources told The Indian Express.

NSA Ajit Doval and his Pakistani counterpart Naseer Khan Janjua reportedly exchanged their personal numbers and e-mail ids during their Bangkok meeting. Both have been instructed by their leaders that, be it an incident along the Line of Control or elsewhere, there should be “zero communication gap” between the two establishments.

“They should chat, meet at various points and places… venues are not important. The content of their conversation is going to be important. That’s what the broad message given to these National Security Advisers has been,” an official said.

A Pakistan government source said that the meeting between Modi and Sharif was so cordial that during their almost 50-minute conversation, there was no “substantive mention” of either Jammu and Kashmir or terrorism. “It is really rare for leaders from the two countries to refrain from putting the other person in a spot, at least once,” the source said.

While the talk was mostly centred on “positives”, a source said, “Sharif was really relaxed… and he used Punjabi humour to keep everyone at ease, from the word go. Anybody who knows him knows that he has a very good sense of humour, very self-deprecatory as well, and that really was the flavour and tone of the conversation.”

On the substantive side, both asked their foreign secretaries to work out a three-to-six-month plan with “actionable areas” where both sides can cooperate, when they meet on January 15-16 in Islamabad.

“The reason for a three-month plan is that they are most likely to meet each other in Washington DC on March 31-April 1, when US President Barack Obama is hosting the Nuclear Security Summit. So they want to take stock of the engagements in the next three months,” an official, who has been briefed on the conversation, said.

The plan is to also have “tangible outcomes” by the time Modi visits Islamabad for the SAARC Summit. The Pakistan government is planning to host the summit in October-November, 2016.

Sources said Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar is likely to have review meetings with almost all the secretaries and departments concerned to understand the “possible new areas” of cooperation, before he heads to Islamabad.

“When Jaishankar meets Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, they should have a tentative plan and schedule of engagements for the next few months. It will be followed by a meeting between officials from both countries almost every week or two weeks,” the source said.

While the broad areas have been spelt out by the two countries, sources said there was no bar on including new areas of collaboration and cooperation.