Narendra Modi met Nawaz Sharif (left) at the SCO summit in Russia (photo: PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad next year. In doing so, Modi has set the agenda for dialogue with Pakistan: dealing with terrorism.
The two leaders met on Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Ufa, Russia – their first meeting after Modi’s swearing-in ceremony in May 2014 and the first since foreign secretary-level talks were cancelled last year.
In a joint statement, both sides agreed to help expedite the trial of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack carried out by Pakistan-based militants.
The suspected mastermind of the attacks, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, was released on bail from a Pakistani jail in April, a development that India had described as "unfortunate and disappointing".
According to Hindustan Times, Modi has succeeded in getting Pakistan to focus on terror. The joint statement is noticeable for its lack of an explicit mention of Kashmir and three-quarters of its text is terror related. It replaces the composite dialogue with a new line-up of bilateral meetings.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar told reporters that both countries had agreed to hold a meeting of their top security advisers to discuss terrorism.
Last September, in his first speech at the UN, Modi said he wanted peace talks with Pakistan but insisted it must create an "appropriate atmosphere".
Both sides also announced the release of all the fishermen lodged in each other’s jails – imprisoned for straying into the other’s international waters – within 15 days.
Modi’s visit to Pakistan in 2016 will be his first ever, and the first by an Indian Prime Minister since Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1999. Modi’s predecessor Dr. Manmohan Singh never went across the border during his 8 years in office.