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PM Modi, Nawaz Sharif Shake Hands to Big Applause at SAARC: 10 Developments

KATHMANDU: The summit erupted in applause when PM Modi and Nawaz Sharif shook hands and smiled for the cameras at the close of the event after avoiding each other for two days.

"If a handshake leads to meaningful dialogue, we welcome it," Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said later, repeating that while India was all for peaceful ties, it wants meaningful dialogue.

PM Modi and Mr Sharif had "exchanged greetings and pleasant courtesies" at a Retreat earlier in Dhulikhel outside Kathmandu, the foreign ministry said.

Speculation of a meeting between the two leaders overshadowed the summit but India said there were no plans for substantive and structured discussions.

On Wednesday, PM Modi had two-way talks with most leaders except Nawaz Sharif.

An energy pact was a face-saver of the summit after Pakistan's refusal to back key proposals supported by India and other nations. Other agreements on freeing up road and rail movement may be approved within three months.

Sources say SAARC leaders persuaded Mr Sharif to endorse at least the energy deal - which allows member countries to trade in electricity - to avoid a complete collapse of the summit.

In his address in the opening session of the two-day summit, PM Modi had bluntly said SAARC evoked cynicism and skepticism. "We have failed to move with the speed that our people expect and want. Nowhere in the world are collective efforts more urgent than in South Asia; and, nowhere else is it so modest," he said.

In its 30 years, SAARC or the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, has delivered negligible results for economic ties and development among its members - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Despite a free trade pact since 2006, South Asian nations conduct only 5 per cent of their total trade with each other, and there are few transport and power links among them.

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