The Troubled Path to Modi and Sharif’s Meet – India Real Time – WSJ

A little more than a year after they met amid high expectations in New Delhi, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan will hold talks on the sidelines of a summit in Russia on Friday. The mood this time around is decidedly less upbeat.

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif are scheduled to sit down for a one-on-one in the city of Ufa, where they have both traveled to attend a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a China- and Russia-dominated group that India and Pakistan are a part of as observers. The two South Asian nations aspire to full membership of the organization, which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Relations between India and Pakistan over the past year have been strained, with a long catalog of disagreements. New Delhi called off planned talks in August after Pakistan’s ambassador to India met with separatists from the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.

 

Tit-for-tat cross-border firing in the fall resulted in civilian casualties and provocative rhetoric from both sides.

The flare-up cast a shadow over a meeting in November of South Asian nations in Nepal, during which Mr. Modi held bilateral talks with some of his counterparts from the region but skipped a one-to-one with Mr. Sharif.

Frosty ties turned openly belligerent again in April when the alleged mastermind of a devastating 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai was freed from prison in Pakistan. India accused Islamabad of not pursuing his prosecution properly, an allegation Pakistan denied.

Inflammatory remarks haven’t made matters easier. India’s cross-border raid on insurgent camps in Myanmar after its soldiers were killed in an ambush near the country’s northeastern frontier–and comments by Mr. Modi’s ministers afterward that the military operation should serve as a warning “to all those who harbor intentions of terror on our country”–irked the government in Islamabad. India has long accused Pakistan of supporting terrorism in India.

India has another growing strategic misgiving: a strengthening China-Pakistan nexus. The two countries, which are longtime allies and each have territorial disputes with India, recently took their relations a step further by inking a $46 billion deal for Chinese investments in building an economic corridor through Pakistan. The pact raised hackles in India, largely because it includes building Chinese-funded infrastructure on disputed territory that is governed by Pakistan but also claimed by India.

All that said, Mr. Modi and Mr. Sharif have tried to ease tensions with occasional telephone calls. In February, the two exchanged messages over the then-upcoming Cricket World Cup. In June, Mr. Modi called Mr. Sharif to wish him well ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and gave him the news that, as a gesture of goodwill, India would be releasing some Pakistani fishermen detained by Indian authorities.

The planned meeting Friday is unlikely to result in a major breakthrough in ties. Still, when the leaders of two nuclear-armed rival nations meet, the world watches.

via The Troubled Path to Modi and Sharif’s Meet – India Real Time – WSJ.

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