Much has been speculated about the impromptu meeting between the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. NewsMobile accessed exclusive details of what was behind the meetings between the two and who really brokered it and why well known television journalist Barkha Dutt got her facts wrong in her book The Unquiet Land, about an alleged meeting between Sharif and Modi in Indian steel magnate’s hotel room in Kathmandu.
THE MAKING OF THE LAHORE STOPOVER
It was in Kabul on December 25 after his address to the Parliament, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a powerful speech that he spoke to Nawaz Sharif on the satellite phone. During the conversation, Sharif invited Modi and said why don’t you bless the bride, there is a wedding in the family. Modi agreed and said that he will drop by. The message was communicated to the Indian delegation that the PM will drop by. He also told his delegation, “My focus of the trip was on Afghanistan. “We are going to Pakistan for showing courtesy to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who came for my swearing in,” an aide told NewsMobile. Modi is known to follow his instincts and in this case he instinctively felt that we should go, even though security would have been an issue. Aides say that the visit was in South Asian tradition where the hospitality and warmth is part of the custom and the PM followed it. Interestingly, following the meeting the PM is also believed to have told his aides that while the dialogue process will go forward they have to assess progress on all issues including terrorism, and his visit to Lahore was more about courtesy for Pakistan’s Premier Nawaz Sharif. In fact, Modi who couldn’t carry any gift for the wedding of Nawaz’s granddaughter, will also be sending a gift for the wedding.
THE TRUTH OF THE JINDAL STORY
It all started in the May of 2014, Narendra Modi the newly elected Prime Minister wanted to send a strong signal to the world that he stood for peace in the neighbourhood and called his close advisors in the Prime Minister’s Office for a meeting and told them he wanted to invite the South Asians leader for the swearing in and they should prepare for it. Within days, all Indians Envoys responded that their hosts have confirmed except Pakistan, the Indian Envoy TCA Raghavan sent a note back saying that Nawaz Sharif may not come and even if he did it may not send the right signals as Nawaz may meet the Hurriyat leaders and may make statements that may be of disadvantage to the Prime Minister especially on the first day of his Prime Ministership. Modi wasn’t satisfied. In Gujarat he had often used the back channels to get things done, and it was then Sajjan Jindal Indian steel magnate Sajjan Jindal, who is the brother of former Congress MP Naveen Jindal. was roped in. The Prime Minister told Jindal that he should contact Nawaz and tell him that Modi wanted to extend the hand of friendship and he should attend the swearing in. However Jindal was told to convey some conditions red lines which Modi didn’t want Nawaz to cross when he would be in Delhi. First Nawaz will not meet any separatist leaders or make any statements which will vitiate the atmosphere. Nawaz agreed to it, and this was conveyed to the Indian Prime Minister, who called his aides again and told them to tell HC Raghavan to approach Nawaz’s office. Within few hours the Indian Envoy got a written confirmation from the Pakistan Prime Minister’s office and from the Pakistan Foreign office that Nawaz Sharif will attend the swearing in. Sharif attended the swearing in ceremony of the Indian Prime Minister in New Delhi on May 26. He did attend a tea party hosted by his friend Sajjan Jindal who had played a pivotal role in organizing the meeting.
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) December 25, 2015
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) December 25, 2015
The Kathmandu Meeting, why Barkha Dutt got it wrong
At the SAARC summit held on November 26 and 27 in 2014, Modi decided to meet Sharif again. The meeting was also to reiterate India’s concerns on terrorism and also to tell him that Pakistan had not done enough, but he didn’t want a structured meeting. So a message was sent to the Pakistani Prime Minister that Modi will meet him but quietly. So the two fixed a rendezvous in Dhulikhel, the venue of the SAARC retreat, where they had a quiet one on one 45 minute meeting and they made some pottery together at a Potters’ Wheel, away from the gaze of other leaders and only a few members of the delegation. While a photo of the two leader talking was clicked but the Prime Minister didn’t want that to come out,as he felt that the time was not ripe.
Well known TV journalist Barkha Dutt got this fact wrong and wrote in her book. “The two leaders then met quietly “in the privacy of Jindal’s hotel room”, where they spent an hour together” “she wrote. Clearly Dutt was misinformed and NewsMobile has found out talking to multiple sources the diplomatic encounter between the two happened at the SAARC retreat and not in a hotel room.