A meeting between Indian and Pakistani leaders on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit in Russia on Friday produced a thaw in tense relations between the South Asian rivals.
A joint statement outlining measures to restore ties was issued after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, held one-on-one talks. Foreign Secretary Pakistan Aizaz Chaudhry said that the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere and the two leaders exchanged views on bilateral and regional interest. He added that the two leaders agreed that both countries have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development.
The Indian premier accepted Nawaz's invitation to Pakistan for the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation summit in 2016. Other measures include upcoming counterterror strategy talks in New Delhi between Indian and Pakistani national security advisers, along with direct bilateral talks between border security officials.
The breakthrough occurred nearly a year after peace negotiations between the estranged neighbors stalled last August, when New Delhi called off high-level talks.
“They agreed that India and Pakistan have a collective responsibility to ensure peace and promote development," Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Chaudhry said, signaling that the two countries are ready to pick up the threads again. "To do so they are prepared to discuss all outstanding issues. Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia.”
The two sides also discussed the primary issue that has strained ties: India’s accusations of Pakistani foot-dragging on bringing justice to those responsible for Mumbai's November 2008 terror attacks that killed 164 people and wounded at least 308. Recent months have seen bitter exchanges over a Pakistani court’s release of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the attacks' alleged mastermind.
Pakistan says India has failed to provide crucial evidence, such as recordings of conversations between the attackers and their handlers.
Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar reported there was some progress at the talks in Ufa on addressing each country's concerns.
“Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples,” he said.
While the ice between the South Asian rivals may have been broken, progress in ending the freeze in their relations is likely to be slow.
Friday's meeting was the first between the two leaders since Nawaz attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony in May 2014.
Some material for this report came from Reuters.