NEW DELHI: It has started again, the media speculation about a possible meeting between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. Officials in both foreign offices, as clueless as the journalists, repeat what has become a dull platitude, “nothing is ruled out of ruled in.”

The reason for the excitement is that both the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers will be staying at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Along with the Chinese and Russian premiers. US President Barack Obama has decided to break with convention and not stay at Waldorf Astoria because, again as the media puts it, it is now owned by the Chinese and he does not want to be bugged. The most powerful man in the world scared of being bugged in his own country? Interesting speculation indeed.

PM’s Modi and Sharif will be, ...hey presto!... “in the same room” at least twice during the day or two they are in New York at the same time. One at the UN Sustainable Development Summit they are both scheduled to address, and the second time at a UN Peacekeeping summit that President Obama is hosting. And of course they might “bump into each other” in the hotel corridors. Obviously asked about this about a media that makes mountains out of trivia a Pakistani official laughed as he responded, “well if they bump into each other at the hotel, there will of course be Salaam Dua.”

There has been no back channel effort to make even that accidental bump consequential. So far PM Sharif is scheduled to raise Kashmir as the ‘core issue’ during his address to the UN General Assembly, that will be a day before that of Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. PM Modi is skipping the meet, and will instead be hosting the heads of Japan, Brazil and the German Chancellor at the G4 meet that is not going to earn any of them favour with Russia and China.

PM Sharif who received considerable flak when he returned home from the Ufa meeting is not likely to take chances this time around. He had agreed to a foreign secretary level meeting on terrorism, omitting the mention of Kashmir altogether. At the UNGA he cannot afford to make any such mistake, and will be speaking of Kashmir, even as he blames India for the stand off and its unwillingness to carry on the dialogue. How harsh the words will be remains to be seen.

PM Modi has moved away from what could have been an interesting slanging match, giving more fodder to the media, leaving it to Swaraj to cross daggers and swords with Pakistan. There is complete disinterest now in Kashmir, the centre of the dispute between the two countries, whether the two Prime Ministers meet or not with the question eliciting little more than a dismissive shrug from persons spoken to in Srinagar. “Who cares” is the response.

If there is any plan---as a consequence of a nudge or a push from the United States---for the two PM’s to change course, then that accidental bump will have to happen before PM Sharif addresses the General Assembly. And not just happen, but actually be turned into a ‘bump and a handshake’ of a strategic dimension!