Islamabad: Pakistani media on Sunday took note of the handshake and exchange of niceties between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz at Amritsar amid deadly border skirmishes and rhetoric.
Aziz reached Amritsar last evening to attend the Heart of Asia conference, instead of this morning apparently to dodge early morning fog. The change of schedule provided a subtle opportunity for a handshake and exchange of pleasantries with Modi who hosted a banquet for the delegates.
The Express Tribune under the front page headline — “Aziz-Modi handshake sets off media frenzy” — wrote that “After months of war rhetoric and deadly border skirmishes, Indian and Pakistani officials exchanged niceties and set the media abuzz on Saturday”.
“With a broad smile on his face, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shook hands with Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz at a banquet he had hosted for the participants of the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar,” it reported.
The paper reported that Modi also asked about the health of his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif who had recently undergone open heart surgery in a London hospital. Aziz conveyed “good wishes” to the Indian leader on behalf of Sharif. The Dawn reported that Aziz was received by Pakistan High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit and the joint secretary of Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
“Sartaj Aziz also sent a bouquet to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her residence, extending his sincere good wishes for her full and speedy recovery,” it said.
The News International reported that Modi shook hands with Aziz and inquired after the well-being of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from him.
“Aziz said Nawaz Sharif is well and he has also expressed good wishes for him,” it further reported.
It also reported that Aziz sent a bouquet to Swaraj at her residence extending good wishes for her speedy recovery. Pakistan was unanimous that no meeting between Pakistani and Indian officials on the sidelines was expected due to the ongoing bilateral tension.
“Contrary to Indian media reports, no actual talks took place during the banquet. Nonetheless, the customary handshake after months of belligerence and hostilities set off media frenzy in both countries,” according to the Express Tribune.
Relations between India and Pakistan have been strained following the Uri terror attack in September that killed 19 Indian soldiers.