NEW DELHI: Armed escalation between India and Pakistan will harm both, former Indian national security adviser M.K. Narayanan said on Tuesday. He was speaking in Chennai amid reports that the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, though they have no plans to meet, will be staying in the same hotel in New York during this week’s UN General Assembly meet.
Kolkata-based The Telegraph reported recently that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi won’t address the general assembly this time, and gave the reason as rooted in the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would have spoken after him in the alphabetical order. Mr Modi would not get a chance to reply to any charges Mr Sharif might make, the paper said. There has been no official comment on the report.
Know more: Sharif-Modi meeting in US unlikely
Meanwhile, NDTV, reporting from New York, said Mr Modi and Mr Sharif would be staying at the Waldorf Astoria, which was recently acquired by a Chinese company. “Will they, won’t they? That familiar old question is back as speculation grows over a possible India-Pakistan meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly,” the website of NDTV said in a report.
“The anticipation has been fuelled by the confirmed news that the Prime Ministers of both countries — Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif — will be staying at the same hotel — New York’s iconic Waldorf Astoria, recently acquired by a Chinese company. That provides enough leeway for an unscheduled and ‘accidental’ hotel lobby handshake at the very least.”
PMs to be in same hotel in New York with hopes of a handshake
NDTV quoted sources in the Foreign Ministry as saying that while no bilateral meeting between the two leaders has been pencilled in yet, “nothing is ruled out or ruled in”.
Pakistani government officials are just as ambivalent, it said. One quipped: “Well, if they bump into each other at the hotel, there will of course be Salaam-Dua.”
Mr Narayanan who had dealt with Pakistan as former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s security adviser cautioned against any escalation between the two countries.
“When there is a conflict between two neighbouring countries, the biggest danger is not knowing how it will escalate,” Mr Narayanan was quoted by The Hindu as saying.
Speaking at the joint meeting of 10 Rotary Clubs on the relationship between India and Pakistan, Mr Narayanan said: “Both countries are nuclear powers, so both have a lot to lose if the relationship escalates into a conflict.”
Through the years, Kashmir has become a symbol of the Indo-Pak relationship. But, in reality there are a number of issues between the two countries. “Hardly, anyone in Kashmir wants to join Pakistan,” he also said.
He said Pakistan is gaining in confidence when it comes to dealing with India.
“Pakistan’s economy is picking up. They have managed to keep India out of Afghanistan and they have a good relationship with the current government,” he said, adding Pakistan also has a good relationship with China.
On the other hand, India felt that Pakistan would respond better if India made more concessions, he added.
Reports said Mr Modi was expected to reach New York on Wednesday whereas the Pakistani PM would arrive two days later.
Both men could be in the same room at least on two different occasions - once at the UN Peacekeeping meet chaired by US President Barack Obama on Monday and possibly at the UN Sustainable Development Summit before that on Friday afternoon, NDTV said.
After the Delhi breakdown - when scheduled talks between the National Security Advisers (NSAs) were scrapped in August - Pakistan NSA Sartaj Aziz told NDTV it was for India to decide whether it wanted to initiate a meeting between him and NSA Ajit Doval in New York, according to the Indian news channel.
It pointed out that though the Indians and Pakistanis had chosen to stay at the Waldorf Astoria, President Obama broke from the decades old tradition of staying there amid fears of surveillance and ‘bugging’ at a hotel now owned by the Chinese. While the Indians at first contemplated a different hotel, the government finally settled on the Waldorf. PM Modi and Nawaz Sharif will be there along with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, NDTV said.
Published in Dawn, September 23rd , 2015