India confirms Singh-Sharif meeting on sidelines of UNGA 


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September, Indian foreign office sources said.

The Indian government has begun making preparations for the meeting of the two Prime Ministers, and a confirmation had been given to Nawaz Sharif’s envoy Shaharyar Khan who was in Delhi earlier this week.

Singh had skipped the UNGA meetings in 2012, but was expected to go this year. But with India set to go for general elections in May 2014, whether this meeting would pave the way for the much awaited visit of Singh to Pakistan it is still uncertain, analysts said.

Analysts were divided on whether the meeting would result in the revival of the composite dialogue, what structure the dialogue would take and whether the Indian PM would visit before the Indian elections scheduled for May 2014.

Although the India’s Prime Minister Office (PMO) has confirmed a meeting days after Pakistan proposed it, what the dynamics will be are yet to be seen.

The internal and domestic perceptions of such a meeting will be, overall, more important than the international repercussions.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party is waiting to see how Pakistan will engage India and whether or not to make this an election issue. The Singh-Gandhi team is determined to avoid a defensive appearance in its foreign policy.

Nawaz Sharif’s special advisor for foreign affairs Sartaz Aziz first came up with the proposal of a meeting when he met foreign minister Salman Khurshid last week on the sidelines of an international security conference in Brunei.

How the meetings will be structured is still being worked out, and whether Singh will meet US President Barack Obama after his meeting with Nawaz Sharif is not yet known.

At his Brunei meeting with Khurshid, Aziz said that India must seize the initiative at its top level to improve relations as he renewed Nawaz Sharif’s invite for Singh to visit Pakistan.

Khurshid had responded by saying that it was now time to show ‘specific steps’ for forward movement in Indo-Pak relations.

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