NEW DELHI: Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India had vowed to be as frank and friendly as European leaders, Indian media quoting sources, privy to the short conversation between the two leaders in Lahore last week, reported on Tuesday.
“Why can’t we be like leaders in Europe, who meet each other for casual get-togethers and chats, Modi asked PM Nawaz during his Lahore surprise stopover”, ‘The Indian Express’ reported.
Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to not let adverse incidents disrupt casual meetings between them
While the two leaders agreed that this could be easier said than done, sources said Nawaz and Modi were firm about trying their best to maintain contact at the highest level.
Spurning official talks in Islamabad, India’s leader chose to make an intimate trip to the premier’s ancestral residence near Lahore on Friday during his surprise visit, where he was celebrating his birthday and the wedding of his granddaughter.
A source present during the meeting said the leaders of the nuclear-armed nations “chatted like old friends” as they ate vegetarian food. The Indian premier also reportedly told PM Nawaz, “Your sincerity is beyond doubt”.
Apart from meeting casually, the two premiers are said to have also agreed “in principle” to keep the dialogue between National Security Advisers “rock solid” and “intact”.
“The leaders decided that even in the worst-case scenarios, come what may, the NSAs must be in touch with each other,” sources told The Indian Express.
Further, a Pakistan government official noted that during the 50-minute meeting between the two premiers, there was no “substantive mention” of Kashmir or terrorism, thus proving that the meeting was a friendly one and had no set agenda. “It is really rare for leaders from the two countries to refrain from putting the other person in a spot, at least once,” the source said.
Mostly centred on ‘positives’, another source stated that during the talk, “PM Nawaz was really relaxed… and he used Punjabi humour to keep everyone at ease, from the word go. Anybody who knows him knows that he has a very good sense of humour, very self-deprecatory as well, and that really was the flavour and tone of the conversation.”
The foreign secretaries of both the countries are likely to meet in Islamabad on January 15. Premier Nawaz and Modi asked their respective foreign secretaries to design a plan for about three to six months with “actionable areas” where both sides can cooperate during the upcoming meeting.
“The reason for a three-month plan is that they are most likely to meet each other in Washington DC on March 31, when US President Barack Obama is hosting the Nuclear Security Summit. So they want to take stock of the engagements in the next three months,” an official, who has been briefed on the conversation, said.
The talks are likely to result in “tangible outcomes” before Modi visits Islamabad for the SAARC Summit which Pakistan is believed to be hosting in October-November, 2016.
Further, sources added that before Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar leaves for Pakistan, he is likely to have review meetings with secretaries and departments concerned to understand the “possible new areas” of cooperation.
“When Jaishankar meets Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhary, they should have a tentative plan and schedule of engagements for the next few months. It will be followed by a meeting between officials from both countries almost every week or two weeks,” the source said.