No invite from Modi

Published: May 29, 2019

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi may well be right. Prime Minister Imran Khan not getting an invitation to attend the swearing-in ceremony of his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi may have something to do with India’s internal politics.

Pakistan-bashing by Modi during his election campaign and his surgical strikes drama did have a dramatically-desirable effect on the many Indians who were not happy with his performance as prime minister.

This sudden change of heart was well reflected in the opinion poll taken in the wake of India’s failed strike on the Pakistani territory of Balakot on February 26. About 51% of the respondents interviewed on March 7 had expressed satisfaction with the working of the central government as compared to 36% on January 1.

It may well be unwise – as Qureshi, the foreign minister, suggested – to expect Modi to get rid of his anti-Pakistan narrative as early as his coronation ceremony.

But what should be a reasonable time for the Indian prime minister to find it safe – in view of internal politics – to reciprocate Pakistan peace overtures? How long should we be courteous enough to ignore India’s uncomplimentary attitude in the spirit of peace? More importantly: Can Modi be ever expected to hold peace talks with us in all its seriousness, given that he has got a good sense of our increasing troubles concerning the economy and internal security?

Qureshi insists that finding a new way to resume dialogue is essential for India as well, and that if Modi wants regional development, the only way is to sit with Pakistan to find a solution.

However, it’s no small challenge for the Pakistani leadership to deal with a politically-powerful and rejuvenated Modi on the issue of Kashmir. Do Prime Minister Imran Khan’s goodwill gestures carry any weightage? What is it that will compel the Indian prime minister to come to the dialogue table? Well, Pakistan needs to go into a serious thought process to find answers to these questions.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2019.

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