Kathmandu: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other SAARC leaders played a key role in bringing together Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif for a handshake that ended their cold vibes at the recent SAARC summit, Nepal's foreign minister said on Sunday.
"Nepal was making efforts not only for a handshake between India and Pakistan, but we were also trying to bring closer the minds of the two leaders," Nepalese Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pandey told.
"While handing over invitations to the SAARC leaders ahead of the Summit to seek their participation, I had personally met SAARC Foreign Ministers, heads of the government and state and at that time I had stressed on the need to create an atmosphere of trust, understanding and improving relations among the SAARC leaders so as to make the regional grouping more vibrant and effective," he said.
"During my talks in Kathmandu not only with the two leaders, but also with other SAARC leaders I had underlined the need to resolve mutual problems among them if there are any.
"Besides the efforts made by Nepal to bring the two leaders, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif closer, President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani had also played an important role," said Pandey, without elaborating.
"Ghani is a highly intellectual leader and he possesses the capacity to do so. That's why I would say that Nepal had taken initiative for the handshake between the two leaders, but the effort was made collectively by all SAARC leaders as well," he said.
Host country Nepal had organised a retreat at picturesque Dhulikhel town near Kathmandu, where Modi and Sharif shook hands twice on the last day of the two-day summit.
Pakistan's decision to consult Kashmiri separatists ahead of Foreign Secretary-level talks led to cancellation of the dialogue by India in August.
Lack of warmth between the two prime ministers at the SAARC summit was reflective of the sudden slide in Indo-Pak ties after Sharif had attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony as did most of the SAARC leaders in May this year.
To a question whether it was "merely a handshake" or any "meaningful talks had taken place" between the two leaders, Pandey said "now there has been a gradual realisation among SAARC leaders that they should sort out differences, forge understanding and cooperate among themselves for resolving problems, rather than escalating tension and intensifying differences".
"This is the beginning of dialogue, discussion and exchanges of views among the SAARC leaders," he added.
To a question, regarding what message the 18th SAARC Summit conveyed, he said, "The 18th SAARC Summit has stressed on the need to forge cooperation and collaboration among the member states for reducing poverty, providing quality education and creating an environment of trust".
"As the member SAARC states, we should move forward by sharing knowledge, skill, science and technology for resolving the problems of the region collectively," Pandey said.