Here for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan counterpart Imran Khan sat across the table at a dinner at the Frunze restaurant, but there was no exchange of pleasantries.
“Koi dua-salaam nahin hua (there was no exchange of pleasantries),” a source told The Indian Express, after the dinner. At the gala concert after the dinner at the Kyrgyz National Philharmonic, the two leaders sat in the front row, but were separated by at least seven leaders in between.
This was different from what had happened two years ago with then Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif. In June 2017, more than 17 months after Modi met Sharif in Lahore, the two had met in the leaders’ lounge at the opera house in Astana where they had gone for the SCO summit to watch a cultural performance — just like today.
There, they had exchanged greetings and since it was the first occasion when the two leaders came across each other after Sharif’s surgery, Modi had enquired about his health, his mother and family.
Before landing in Bishkek, Khan told Russian news agency Sputnik that Pakistan’s relationship with India is probably at its “lowest point”, and hoped Modi will use his “big mandate” to resolve all differences, including the Kashmir issue.
Underlining that the SCO countries provide these fresh outlets and developing relationship with other countries, he said, “And that means, of course, India as well because at the moment our bilateral relationship with India is, probably, at its lowest point. And, yes, it will be an opportunity to speak to the Indian leadership during this SCO conference.” There is no bilateral meeting scheduled Friday as well.
Referring to Modi’s re-election, Khan told Sputnik, “But we hope now that the current Prime Minister has one big mandate, we hope that he will use this mandate to develop better relationship and bring peace in the subcontinent.”
On whether he is ready to sit down with Modi at the table, Khan said, “Well, we have already indicated to India that after the elections. We actually tried before the elections, but unfortunately we felt that before the elections Prime Minister Modi’s party was building up this hysteria, unfortunately, anti-Pakistan feeling among its people, appealing to its right-wing Hindu nationalists, and so there was no chance of peace before the elections.”
“Now that the elections are over, we hope that the Indian leadership will now grasp this opportunity, avail this opportunity that Pakistan is offering — that let’s resolve all our differences through dialogue. In fact, that is the only way of resolving our differences.
There is no way two nuclear-armed countries should think of resolving the differences through military means. It is madness. So we hope that now we can progress, use dialogue to resolve our differences.”
He said Pakistan is looking for “any kind of mediation, because Pakistan believes that progress comes with peace”. On the Kartarpur corridor, he said that it has been a “great initiative” from Pakistan. “And we hope that, as I’ve said, now that the elections are over, India will respond positively to these initiatives, to further people-to-people contact. But, unfortunately, people-to-people contact only works when the governments also try to get closer. You can’t have a situation where the governments have animosity towards each other, and expect people to get closer. It does not happen. So the governments have to, the Indian government has to take this initiative. Now, I think, it is time for them to take the initiative, and so we can get back on the dialogue table,” he said.