The leaders of India and Pakistan on Tuesday held surprise bilateral talks that focused on improving ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbors.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met with his Indian opposite, Narendra Modi, for close to an hour after the latter's inauguration ceremony in New Delhi, the New York Times reports. Sharif was one of seven regional leaders asked to attend the swearing-in, however the face-to-face between the Pakistani and Indian leaders drew the most attention due to the rarity and unexpectedness of the event and hopes that it could signal the South Asian rivals might move seriously to reinvigorate peace talks.
Islamabad officials have voiced hopeful comments about the chances for enhancing bilateral ties, pointing out that the last notable headway on that front came in the late 1990s, when Sharif signed a landmark arms control agreement with then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The accord committed the two nations to hold further talks on new nuclear arsenal confidence-building measures. However those discussions never got underway. Several months after the signing of the agreement, the two sides fought a brief war over the disputed territory of Kashmir, and Sharif was removed from office in a 1999 military coup.
"I intend taking up threads from where Vajpayee and I left off in 1999," Sharif said to a New Delhi Television journalist. His trip to New Delhi represented the first such visit to the Indian capital by a Pakistani leader since the late 2008 terrorist attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai by Pakistani-based extremists.
Modi and Sharif spent a considerable amount of time discussing the status of Islamabad's prosecution of alleged conspirators in the Mumbai strikes, which New Delhi does not believe is proceeding fast enough. The Indian leader called on Islamabad to "abide by its commitment" to prevent terrorists from using Pakistani territory as a launching pad for strikes on India, the Associated Press reported.
"The prime minister underlined our concerns related to terror," Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said to journalists following the meeting.
Singh said Modi also urged that Islamabad quicken the pace of its probe into the Mumbai attacks, which killed over 160 people.