Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a brief tete a tete during an annual gathering of world leaders in Paris for the COP21 climate change summit.
Although the gathering is one of the most controversial and important political gatherings in the world, the meeting of the two leaders generated a lot of buzz in its own right and stole some of the shine of the climate change agenda.
This is because relations between the two countries have been tense lately. The interaction garnered a lot of media scrutiny with some calling it a step in the right direction and a damper on the red hot relationship between the two countries, while others downplay the significance of the meeting saying it was merely “an exchange of courtesies” in a social setting, as described by the Spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup.
What is clear however, is that there is media interest in searching for some diplomatic meaning from the exchange. Questions about who approached who and who seemed the most engaged in the discussion are being raised as both countries try to save face or score some political points.
Mr. Sharif described the talks as “good” and added that avenues for dialogue between the two leaders should open up.
So what exactly happened at the COP 21 Climate Change summit?
According to eyewitness reports, it was Prime Minister Modi who approached Prime Minister Sharif, when he saw him sitting in the VIP lounge outside the main plenary hall.
However, a Pakistani official has described the encounter as nothing more than an ice breaker.
A member of the Pakistani delegation from the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, an Islamabad based think-tank who also attended the conference said PM Sharif told him that PM Modi approached him and he told him that “Pakistan is concerned about terrorist activities within its borders and that they should talk about it”.
The most recent encounters between the two leaders was on July 10th when they met in Russia for the SCO summit were a tentative meeting of security officials between the two countries was agreed but never took place because of disagreements over the meeting agenda.
They also met again in September in New York during the UN General Assembly session, but only waves and smiles were exchanged.
CLIMATE CHANGE SUMMIT
COP 21 is an annual forum to tackle climate change on a global political level. It stands for Conference of the Parties and over 150 heads of state attended this year’s summit in Paris.
Ban Ki Moon was quoted as saying this “the stakes are high” for this year’s gathering.
Prime Minister Sharif gave a speech about Pakistan’s commitment to tackling climate change and his hope that the summit can achieve its objective which is a legally binding agreement to keep greenhouse gas emissions under a 2 degree Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels.
His speech has been criticized by Kashmala kakakhel, an independent expert on climate change from Pakistan as lacking in ambition and vision.