Ufa (Russia), July 10: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to hold a bilateral meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Friday – in a much anticipated meeting that could likely set off an improvement in bilateral ties.
“It is confirmed. PM @narendramodi and PM Nawaz Sharif will have a bilateral meeting in Ufa on Friday at 9.15 am on sidelines of SCO Summit,” Indian external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted on Thursday.
The confirmation puts to rest speculation of a possible meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.
The meeting comes days after Modi telephoned Sharif on June 16 to convey Ramadan greetings and stressed on the need for peaceful and bilateral ties.
Bilateral relations are expected to figure in the talks between the two countries and possibly some agreements inked, including to boost trade.
Modi and Sharif had met in November last year during the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, but they did not hold any bilateral meeting.
The two had held a bilateral meeting on May 26 last year during the swearing-in of Modi. The two had exchanged gifts, the sari-shawl diplomacy, and tweets, which had given rise to hope of improvement in ties between the two rivals, both nuclear powers.
But continuing firings on the border, which claimed the lives of security personnel, and the Pakistani envoy hobnobbing with Kashmiri separatists last August saw India calling off foreign secretary-level talks at the last moment.
Ties saw a downswing after that, and Pakistan’s raising the Kashmir issue at international forums did not help matters.
The release of 26/11 mastermind Zakiur-Rehman Lakhvi, despite India voicing concerns, also added to India’s concerns.
Friday’s meeting is likely to see terrorism being discussed, especially India’s concern over the release of Lakhvi by a court in Pakistan.
Both India and Pakistan are to be made permanent members of the SCO.