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PM ignores Sharif, chooses to meet other SAARC leaders

November 26, 2014 23:02 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held bilateral talks with all Heads of Government and State attending the 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the only conspicuous exemption.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif walks past Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 18th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Kathmandu, Nepal. Photograph: PTI Photo

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, "It was decided earlier that there will be no structured talks as no requests had come... I said it before we are ready for a meaningful bilateral dialogue. When circumstances are there, we will have that dialogue. Nothing else....We are ready when they are ready."

Asked whether Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan will exchange pleasantries at the dinner or at the retreat on Thursday, he only said "when a senior Indian leader and senior Pakistani leader come face to face, they exchange courtesies. It's normal" and could not be construed as dialogue.

On whether it was a missed opportunity for India in terms of not been able to push Pakistan to expedite the Mumbai trial in that country, he said, "If meetings could speed up trials we would have...number of meetings. Despite India repeatedly making the case that we would like an expeditious trial in Mumbai case, we have not seen sufficient progress. So, let's not jump into a conclusion that a meeting would change the entire approach.

Prime Minister meets President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka on the sidelines of 18th SAARC Summit in Kathmandu (November 26, 2014). Photograph: Ashish Maitra/Photo Division

"This has not been our experience. Ultimately, India and Pakistan are neighbours and we are looking at cooperative and peaceful relations with Pakistan and we stand ready to engage when they are ready for a meaningful dialogue," he said.

Giving details of the Prime Minister's five bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, he said a large part of the discussions centered around the statements made and events at the SAARC Summit.

Prime Minister meets Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay of Bhutan on the sidelines of 18th SAARC Summit, in Kathmandu (November 26, 2014). Photograph: Ashish Maitra/Photo Division

Modi held bilateral talks with Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa and President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen.

During his meeting with Ghani, the Afghanistan leader shared his views on the current security situation with Modi assuring him of India's commitment to strengthen relations with the war-torn country, he said.

Prime Minister meets Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh on the sidelines of 18th SAARC Summit at Kathmandu (November 26, 2014). Photograph: Ashish Maitra/Photo Division

"Prime Minister did indicate that India stands ready to assist Afghanistan in any manner within our capability. There was a discussion on possible economic cooperation in terms of technology transfer in some specific areas. President Ghani had repeatedly said that as far as he sees India as central to economic prosperity in Afghanistan.

"And he said that he would be interested in Indian investment in Afghanistan and he also listed certain sectors on which he would look forward to this investment. The President said when he comes to New Delhi, he would come with specific proposals. And that would be early next year," the spokesperson said.

Prime Minister meets President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan on the sidelines of 18th SAARC Summit at Kathmandu (November 26, 2014). Photograph: Ashish Maitra/Photo Division

The prime minister raised the issue of security of Indian consulates in Afghanistan and the President assured him that India's security interests will be protected, he said.

The prime minister also invited the President of Afghanistan to visit India.

Akbaruddin said that Prime Minister Modi told Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will travel to Colombo next month.

Doval will also travel to the Maldives next month. Maritime security will be on the agenda during these visits.

On Modi's meeting with Hasina, the Spokesperson said they had a detailed exchange of views on matters relating to security and terrorism which impact both countries.

Prime Minister meets President Abdulla Yameen of Maldives on the sidelines of 18th SAARC Summit at Kathmandu (November 26, 2014). Photograph: Ashish Maitra/Photo Division

Asked if the two leaders discussed Burdwan blast, he said: "I will not get into the specifics of what is sensitive communication between two Prime Ministers. But I can tell you that they had a very detailed exchange of views on issues of security and terror both impacting on India as well as Bangladesh and both were happy about the cooperation that exists between the two countries."

They also discussed greater prospects of cooperation among the democracies in South Asia.

During the bilateral meetings, various Heads of Government also complimented the Prime Minister for his statement at the SAARC Summit and his forward looking vision, he said, adding Modi was also complimented for his initiative of the SAARC satellite.

Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives reiterated their invitations to the prime minister, and the latter emphasized that engagement with SAARC nations is a priority for him. The prime minister invited Tobgay to visit India in January, and also be part of the 'Vibrant Gujarat' summit.

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