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SAARC damp squib: No talks as PM Modi, Sharif fail to break ice

During the nearly three-hour SAARC Summit, Indian PM Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, who were sitting two seats away from each other, didn’t look at each other even when Sharif crossed Modi before and after delivering his speech.

Though there was no ‘structured’ meeting scheduled between the two leaders, brief exchange of pleasantries was expected given that they would be attending the same conference and the retreat on Thursday. On Tuesday, Sharif had pinned the blame on India, saying ‘cancellation of talks was New Delhi’s unilateral decision,’ and ‘ball is now India’s court for talks between both the countries.’

India maintained that New Delhi was for ‘meaningful dialogue’ which involves specifics. ‘Meaningful dialogue has a meaning in diplomacy. In Pakistan, they know it very clearly what we mean by meaningful dialogue as they know us and understand us. They know everything,’ External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said when asked about Sharif’s remarks.

Recounting the horror of 26/11 Mumbai attack Modi on Wednesday said the pledge taken by SAARC nations to combat terror and transnational crimes should be fulfilled. ‘Today, as we remember the horror of the terror attack in Mumbai in 2008, we feel the endless pain of lost lives. Let us work together to fulfil the pledge we have taken to combat terrorism and trans-national crimes,’ said Modi.

During his nearly 30-minute speech, Modi outlined India’s various initiatives in key sectors of health, science, visa regimes and connectivity for the SAARC region as he pitched to turn South Asia of ‘flowering hope into a rich field of peace and prosperity’ by collective efforts. He said joint efforts were ‘more urgent than in South Asia; and, nowhere else is it so modest.’

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