New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) India has dismissed as “petty, to the point of being ludicrous”, the criticism over Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif walking up to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the meeting room in Ufa, Russia, on July 10.
According to sources, India had asked Pakistan to arrange for the meeting between the two prime ministers, and it was natural for Modi to be standing to receive Sharif that day.
“Who walked how many steps… the criticism is silly. If Nawaz Sharif had asked for the meeting our prime minister would have walked up to him,” said sources.
The criticism in Pakistan over the steps that Sharif walked “is petty, to the point of being ludicrous”, the sources said, adding that “no message was intended” in the manner of the reception.
“To make it the subject of analysis, tells of the state of affairs there,” the source added.
Pakistani Senator Rehman Malik in a press statement had criticised the Ufa meeting, saying that it “clearly demonstrates how disrespectful Mr Modi was towards Sharif”.
According to reports in the Pakistani press, the former interior minister compared Modi to ‘the Tsar of Russia’ and “rude and undiplomatic” as he described how the two leaders interacted.
“(Our prime minister) was made to walk through a long corridor towards Modi’s chair/throne. (Modi) didn’t show the slightest courtesy under diplomatic norms for his Pakistani counterpart to walk a few steps forward to receive him.”
According to the sources, Sharif’s attitude during the talks was “very comfortable” and he “lightened the atmosphere” in the beginning with some jokes. “That is how it went”.
Before they started talks on bilateral issues, both leaders discussed their respective tours, with Modi commenting that the European Union, African Union and Central Asia were ahead of South Asia in terms of connectivity and the interactions between the members.
While Modi had reached Ufa after visiting Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and attending the BRICS summit, Sharif had come from Oslo where he met Pakistani-born Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousufzai in Oslo, Norway.
“There was a fair amount of initial talk on these issues” after which the talk focused on direct discussions on bilateral issues, the sources added.
It was Prime Minister Modi’s idea to have a joint statement to be read out to the waiting media, the source added.
The source also said that the National Security Advisors of India and Pakistan would meet “specifically” to discuss terror, as laid down by the joint statement.
The sources also said that “all the outstanding issues”, as mentioned in the joint statement, was not to be confused with the mandate of the two NSAs — Ajit Doval and Sartaj Aziz — which was “specifically to discuss terrorism”.
The Director General of the Border Security Force and the Director General of Pakistan Rangers meeting and that of the Directors General of Military Operations of both countries meeting to thrash out border issues was Modi’s idea.
Even the point about both sides releasing fishermen and boats in each other’s custody in 15 days was Modi’s idea, while the idea to promote religious tourism was Sharif’s idea, to which Modi agreed.
There was a “fair amount” of discussion on 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi’s case and the need to progress on the trial, and Sharif, being a politician, was able to understand the public sentiment in India.
The words of the joint statement were “chosen very carefully”.
The joint statement said both sides agreed to discuss the ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial, including additional information like providing voice samples.
The meeting was “to discuss discussions, of where to go”, the source said.
The source said the NSA element was clear about the context of discussion – terrorism – and where – in New Delhi.
The meeting of the DG BSF and DGMOs was on border issues, while the issue of fishermen and tourism were initiatives. But regarding the Mumbai attack trial, the format and when and where has to be decided.