Narendra Modi, Nawaz Sharif book Swiss date

Narendra Modi, Nawaz Sharif book Swiss date

By: || Updated: 27 Dec 2015 08:15 AM
New Delhi, Dec. 26: When Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif met in Lahore yesterday, they talked not just about Kashmir, the wedding of the Pakistani leader's granddaughter and the resumed bilateral talks. They also discussed their next date, in January, in cold Switzerland.
Modi and Sharif are expected to meet in Davos on the margins of the World Economic Forum, to be held from January 20 to 23, senior officials from both countries have confirmed to The Telegraph.

Yesterday's discussion on their next likely meeting, less than a month later, reflects a decision taken by Modi and backed by Sharif so far to hold regular face-to-face conversations, signalling to their countries a personal commitment to the resumed dialogue, officials said.

Meetings between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan have always hinged on whether such talks would be saleable to their domestic audiences, given the prevailing state of bilateral relations.

The persistent threats of cross-border firing, infiltration and terrorism have made any future planning of such meetings a risky proposition that few have thought worth undertaking.

But a Davos meeting between Modi and Sharif would be their third in less than two months - after Paris, where they met on November 30 on the margins of the UN climate-change conclave, and Lahore yesterday.

"The challenge in India-Pakistan relations has always been to keep up the momentum of talks despite hiccups that are inevitable," J. Jegannathan, professor of South Asian studies at the Central University of Jammu, told The Telegraph.

"Clearly, the Prime Minister is trying a new tack to keep that momentum going."

Inconsistency has marked Modi's Pakistan policy till now. Modi had begun his term by inviting Sharif, along with leaders from other South Asian nations, to his oath-taking ceremony in May last year.

But a series of setbacks followed after New Delhi declared a new "red line" for talks - that Pakistani officials and leaders would not meet Kashmiri separatists before any bilateral negotiations.

Modi and Sharif shook hands and chatted briefly in Kathmandu in November last year, although a recent book by an Indian journalist says they also held a secret one-hour meeting, a claim denied by the Indian foreign office.

In July this year, Modi made a fresh stab at peace talks with Pakistan on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit at Ufa, Russia.

But Modi's recent spurt of meetings with Sharif means a Davos date with his Pakistani opposite number would be their sixth in the 20 months since the Indian leader came to power.

By contrast, Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh met the then Pakistani Presidents, Pervez Musharraf and later Asif Ali Zardari - the real powers in Islamabad at the time - just four times in five years during his first term in office.

Manmohan's second term yielded six meetings - four with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and two with Zardari - for an overall 10-year record of one meeting a year, a strike rate Modi threatens to far outstrip.

Reported by-
The Telegraph, Calcutta

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