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‘Will Support All Steps to Strengthen Dialogue’: US on PM Narendra Modi-Nawaz Sharif Meet

WASHINGTON:  The US has welcomed the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Russia on Friday where big breakthroughs were announced including a meeting between their National Security Advisors to tackle terrorism, and a push for more frequent and face-to-face contact between senior army officers.

“I welcome the meeting that took place earlier today between Prime Ministers Modi and Sharif and their announcement of future engagement between India and Pakistan,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters on Friday.

The US hailed, among other things, the decision of the two countries to revive the stalled dialogue and to speeding up efforts to bring those behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks to justice.

“We also welcome the announcement that India and Pakistan will discuss a range of bilateral issues, including security, people-to-people ties and expediting the Mumbai trial,” Mr Toner said. “We support all steps between the Governments of India and Pakistan to strengthen their dialogue and cooperation,” he added.

PM Modi, who met PM Sharif on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the Russian city of Ufa, also accepted an invitation to attend the regional SAARC summit in Islamabad next year.

The announcements were made after a meeting between the Prime Ministers that began with a warm handshake and ran longer than planned. Then, in a surprise move, their Foreign Secretaries appeared together – a rare occurrence – to read out a joint statement.

The statement made no reference to Kashmir, nor was it brought up by Mr Sharif during the talks, said sources, which has resulted in sharp criticism for him in Pakistan.

Friday’s was the first meeting between the two leaders in over seven months, when they shared a handshake and a few words at a South Asia summit in Nepal in November.

Their last formal talks were in May 2014, after Mr Sharif attended Mr Modi’s swearing-in ceremony as prime minister in New Delhi, a first for a Pakistani leader.

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