Five-point Agenda for Talks
Official sources told ET that the new PM had a five-point agenda for his talks with Sharif, one of the eight South Asian leaders invited to witness Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on Monday at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The prime minister “underlined our concerns related to terrorism” to Sharif, said Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, who briefed the press after the meeting. Both sides also stressed more robust business links, Singh said. “There was discussion on trade and we noted that we were fully ready to normalise trade and economic relations. Both prime ministers expressed their interest in having this done as early as possible,” Singh said. Modi said the two countries could move immediately toward full trade normalisation on the basis of the September 2012 road map. Trade between the two countries is at around $2.5 billion, with Indian exports accounting for $1.75 billion. Sharif, also a pro-business PM, said he saw the talks as a “historic opportunity” to improve ties between the South Asian countries, which have fought three wars since Independence in 1947. “We should rid the region of instability and insecurity that has plagued us for decades. Consequently, it is important for us to work together for peace, progress and prosperity,” Sharif said in a statement.
It may be recalled that Modi had stressed that talks and terror cannot go on hand in hand during his election campaign. Bharatiya Janata Party has often accused the former Congress regime and ex-PM Manmohan Singh of being soft on Pakistan. “We want peaceful and friendly relations with Pakistan. However, for such relations to proceed, it is important that terror and violence are brought to an end,” the foreign secretary told reporters after the meeting.
Sharif told Modi that engaging in “accusations and counter-accusations would be counter-productive”, according to the statement released by Pakistan. “My government, therefore, stands ready to discuss all issues between our two countries, in a spirit of cooperation and sincerity.”
Singh said Modi conveyed the message that Islamabad must “abide by its commitment to prevent its territory and territory it controls being used to stage terror attacks on India”.
He also told Sharif that the trial in Pakistan of those accused in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks was “too slow” and no action had been taken against the plotters. “We also expect that necessary steps will be taken in the Mumbai terror attack trial underway in Pakistan to ensure speedy progress of the case and the conviction of those responsible,” Singh said. Regarding the attack on India’s consulate in Heart, the Afghan government had passed on information that showed the involvement of Pakistan-based Lashkare-Taiba (LeT), the terrorist group also behind the Mumbai attack of 2008. A top government source told ET that the US had also shared with India inputs about LeT’s role in last Friday’s attack on the Herat consulate that was construed as an attempt to derail India-Pakistan engagement in the wake of Sharif ’s trip to Delhi. India’s foreign ministry had earlier said it believed the attack was planned “beyond the borders of Afghanistan”. The foreign secretary indicated that Dawood Ibrahim also came up in the meeting that exceeded the scheduled time of 35 minutes. However, Singh said it would be inappropriate for her to provide details of what exactly was discussed. Modi has accepted an invitation from Sharif to visit Pakistan, the dates for which will be worked out. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was also with Modi for the bilateral interaction. After the meeting, Sharif also called on Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was the prime minister when the Delhi-Lahore bus service was launched in 1999 by the governments they headed. The Pakistan PM also met Bollywood personalities Hema Malini, also a BJP MP, and her husband Dharmendra.