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SAARC may break Modi-Sharif ice

SAARC may break Modi-Sharif ice
Highlights

The 18th SAARC summit may see a thaw in India and Pakistan ties that have nosedived in recent months, with New Delhi on Sunday not ruling out an informal meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

Sushma Swaraj hints at possible meeting of two PMs

New Delhi: The 18th SAARC summit may see a thaw in India and Pakistan ties that have nosedived in recent months, with New Delhi on Sunday not ruling out an informal meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

The two leaders will come face-to-face when eight members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meet in Kathmandu on November26 and 27 though there is a no formal proposal from either side for a meeting.

India did not rule out the possibility of a meeting between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz in Nepal on the margins of the SAARC Summit, with External Affairs Minister saying "wait till tomorrow".

Nepal is ready to "mediate" between India and Pakistan to break the deadlock in their ties by bringing the leaders of the two countries together during the SAARC Summit, Foreign Minister Mahendra Pandey said.

Meanwhile, Modi will hand over to Nepal a 200-bedded trauma centre and an Advanced Light Helicopter for its army.

The trauma centre has been built by India at a cost of Rs 1.5 billion at the city's Bir Hospital, the oldest medical facility in the country.

The centre was to come into operation in 2009, but the project got delayed due to some technical reasons.

The trauma centre has six operation theatres, 14 intensive care units (ICUs), eight resuscitation rooms and beds for emergency observation, 10 examination cubicles in the outpatient department and a triage area.

The PM, who leaves for the meeting on Tuesday, “was keen to have meaningful dialogues with as many south Asian colleagues as possible”, external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said Sunday.

Even a small chat in an informal setting could prove to be an ice-breaker, said sources. Modi had invited Sharif for his swearing-in but the ties have taken a hit ever since. Nineteen civilians were killed last month in the worst exchange of border fire in Jammu and Kashmir in a decade. In August, foreign secretary-level talks were called off when the Pakistan high commissioner went ahead and met Kashmiri separatists, ignoring India’s reservations. “The visit, which is essentially for the SAARC Summit, will also have a substantial bilateral component,” Akbaruddin said.

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