India-Pakistan PMs to Meet Under US Watch
NEW DELHI: Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif are all set for another meeting at Washington under the watchful eye of US President Barack Obama. The India and Pakistan leaders have accepted the US President’s invite to attend the Nuclear Summit being hosted by him March 31 and April 1.
The US has finally dropped the covers to directly intervene, and prod the two leaders to open the stalled dialogue. US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said in Washington, “We are also concerned, clearly, about tensions between India and Pakistan, in the region and we want to see a dialogue between those two countries, clearly, to help alleviate some of these tensions.”
Till date, the official US position for the record had been that it was for the two countries to take a decision about talks, and Washington was not going to intervene. However, the kid glove approach has been discarded for a more hands on initiative with Toner’s statement following the invitation constituting the current writing on the wall.
The speculation has again started as to whether the two will meet on the sidelines of this summit. More so, as even after PM Modi’s sudden visit to Lahore on his way back to India from Afghanistan failed to really open any new doors. In fact the Pathankot attack has again stalled the proposed dialogue with the foreign secretaries talks postponed indefinitely.
Pakistan had stated that it would be sending a special investigation team for the terror attack, and while New Delhi seemed to be in compliance little has been heard of this since. PM Nawaz Sharif was clear in condemning the attack, distancing his government from it, and announcing full action against the perpetrators of the violence on the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot.
Interestingly, New Delhi has officially not been indulging in the usual anti-Pakistan rhetoric that has been left for the streets with students and journalists being beaten by lawyers at the Patiala court for allegedly raising pro-Pakistan slogans. “Go to Pakistan” remains the refrain of these attacks, although the government is now keeping the option of dialogue open.
Both Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif have accepted the invitation for the summit.
Significantly, in a development related to the Nuclear Summit Russia has informed Washington that it will not be attending this. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reiterated Moscow’s decision taken as far back as October last year, raising doubts about “the added value” of the forum. She said, "We believe it is unacceptable to create a precedent of such outside interference into the work of international organizations” as "Washington is trying to assume the role of the main and privileged 'player' in this field." Zakharova said that Russia had decided to instead focus on cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, And was of the view that such nuclear summits impose the opinions of a limited group of states on other international structure. This she said was “unacceptable.”
This is a major development, given the fact that Russia had attended the earlier summits. This decision follows a major strategic shift in police, indicated by President Vladimir Putins decision to move his troops into Syria against the Islamic State.