PARIS: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi pictured during their brief meeting here on Monday.—INP
PARIS: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi pictured during their brief meeting here on Monday.—INP

WHILE some officials called it just a ‘chance meeting’, to others the brief talks between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Monday on the sidelines of a climate summit in Paris helped to ease the tense atmospherics of bilateral relations.

Mr Sharif himself said the talks “were good”.

The meeting took place when Mr Modi went to the lounge for visiting leaders and found Mr Sharif sitting there, according to a diplomatic source who witnessed the interaction.

Noticing Mr Sharif’s presence, Mr Modi walked up to him. The two leaders then warmly shook hands and sat next to each other and briefly chatted. No official delegates were present during the meeting.

Nawaz, Modi exchange pleasantries at UN Climate Change Confere...

Nawaz, Modi exchange pleasantries at UN Climate Change Conference in Paris: PM Office

Posted by on Monday, November 30, 2015

Spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup was quoted by Indian media as having said that there was only “exchange of courtesies”.

But, according to TV channel reports, Prime Minister Sharif said that “talks with PM Narendra Modi were good. Doors of dialogue should open”.

The meeting appeared to be an impromptu encounter in the VIP lounge outside the main plenary hall. Although the Indian media, which is present at COP21 in large numbers, went into frenzy over the encounter, an official from the Pakistani delegation later clarified that the Modi-Sharif meeting was more of an ice-breaker than anything else.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi greet each other. ─ Photo courtesy: MEA
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi greet each other. ─ Photo courtesy: MEA

According to Ali Tauqeer Sheikh, the head of LEAD-Pakistan, “I think the meeting just happened because they could not escape each other at the Paris summit and some well-wishers wanted them to meet and let out the steam given the recent tension between India and Pakistan. It doesn’t necessarily mean a breakthrough.”

PM Sharif met Shakeel Ramay, a member of the Pakistani delegation from Sustainable Development Policy Institute, a think-tank in Islamabad, while walking into the plenary and told him when questioned that PM Modi was the one who approached him and started talking about cooperation. Mr Sharif told Mr Modi that “we have lots of concerns in Pakistan about terrorist activities and that we need to talk about it”. It was a cordial chat, less than two minutes long and nothing of significance was discussed.

According to a Pakistani official present at the meeting, “For optics, it looked like PM Modi was more keen on talking and since he was the one who approached our PM, then maybe the India-Pak dialogue might just get back on track, given the recent halt in talks.”

The two leaders last met on July 10 on the sidelines of SCO summit in the Russian city of Ufa during which they had agreed on a meeting of their national security advisers for discussing terrorism threats. But the meeting could not take place because of differences between the two sides over the agenda.

Mr Sharif and Mr Modi were together in New York during the UN General Assembly session in September, but only got to wave at each other and exchange smiles at the summit on peacekeeping. Ties between the two countries have mostly remained tense since Mr Modi came to power, except for when Mr Sharif travelled to Delhi to attend his inauguration.

CLIMATE SUMMIT: The Leaders Event at the Paris Climate Summit took place on Monday, the first day of the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 with speeches by US President Obama, UK PM Cameron, Canadian PM Justine Trudeau, Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif.

The Pakistani leader arrived on November 29 and gave a brief press conference at the Peninsula Hotel where he is staying, having flown in from Malta on a small 12-seater plane.

Both leaders met other heads of states before giving their speeches at the plenary. Nawaz Sharif met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to discuss security issues.

Later in the day Mr Sharif gave a speech to the plenary about Pakistan’s commitment to act as a responsible player in tackling climate change and his hope for a legally binding agreement to be reached in Paris.

The speech was less than three minutes long, barely touching upon Pakistan’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

According to Kashmala Kakakhel, an independent expert on climate change from Pakistan, “while he said all the right things, promising that Pakistan will support the multilateral process, the speech had no ambition and no vision as to how action will be taken at the national level to tackle climate change”.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2015

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