India, Pakistan leaders may meet on sidelines of SAARC summit
Officials in India and Pakistan have indicated that their prime ministers will meet on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Bhutan this week, though it is unclear if the meeting will go beyond handshakes.
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A meeting would be another step toward better relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors, whose ties have deteriorated since the November 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai (Bombay) by Pakistani militants.
Foreign ministers of both countries hinted the meeting would take place when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in the mountain country of Bhutan on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Reuters. The SAARC comprises India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, the Maldives, and Bangladesh.
"A meeting between the leaders is seen as crucial because it would help keep engagement alive between two nuclear-armed neighbors who have a long tradition of hostility," Reuters reports.
"The two countries' battle for influence in Afghanistan also has a direct bearing on Western efforts to stabilize a region with 1.8 billion people."
The two shook hands when they met briefly in Washington, D.C., on April 13 for the Nuclear Security Summit, but have not engaged in substantial dialogue since July, when they met in Egypt and agreed to separate the issue of terrorism from peace talks. India stopped the peace process after the attacks in Mumbai.
While the two nations' foreign ministers met in February in the first formal bilateral talks since the Mumbai terror attacks, The Christian Science Monitor reported that the meeting was less about substance and more about rebuilding trust to pave the road for resuming real talks.