PM Modi holds bilateral talks with SAARC leaders except Sharif

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held bilateral talks with all Heads of Government and State attending the 18th SAARC Summit here with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the only conspicuous exemption.

Kathmandu: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday held bilateral talks with all Heads of Government and State attending the 18th SAARC Summit here with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif the only conspicuous exemption.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said, "It was decided earlier that there will be no structured talks as no requests had come... I said it before we are ready for a meaningful bilateral dialogue. When circumstances are there, we will have that dialogue. Nothing else....We are ready when they are ready."

Asked whether Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan will exchange pleasantries at the dinner or at the retreat tomorrow, he only said "when a senior Indian leader and senior Pakistani leader come face to face, they exchange courtesies. It's normal" and could not be construed as dialogue.

On whether it was a missed opportunity for India in terms of not been able to push Pakistan to expedite the Mumbai trial in that country, he said,"If meetings could speed up trials we would have...Number of meetings. Despite India repeatedly making the case that we would like an expeditious trial in Mumbai case, we have not seen sufficient progress. So, let's not jump into a conclusion that a meeting would change the entire approach.

"This has not been our experience. Ultimately, India and Pakistan are neighbours and we are looking at cooperative and peaceful relations with Pakistan and we stand ready to engage when they are ready for a meaningful dialogue," he said.

Giving details of the Prime Minister's five bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, he said a large part of the discussions centered around the statements made and events at the SAARC Summit.

Modi held bilateral talks with Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa and President of Maldives Abdulla Yameen.

During his meeting with Ghani, the Afghanistan leader shared his views on the current security situation with Modi assuring him of India's commitment to strengthen relations with the war-torn country, he said.

"Prime Minister did indicate that India stands ready to assist Afghanistan in any manner within our capability. There was a discussion on possible economic cooperation in terms of technology transfer in some specific areas. President Ghani had repeatedly said that as far as he sees India as central to economic prosperity in Afghanistan.

"And he said that he would be interested in Indian investment in Afghanistan and he also listed certain sectors on which he would look forward to this investment. The President said when he comes to New Delhi, he would come with specific proposals. And that would be early next year," the Spokesperson said.

Prime Minister raised the issue of security of Indian consulates in Afghanistan and the President assured him that India's security interests will be protected, he said.

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