Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were first leaders to congratulate the newly-elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday.
President Erdogan telephoned Shehbaz while Modi tweeted, congratulating the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president for becoming the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan.
According to the PML-N’s media wing, the Turkish President told Shehbaz that he was “delighted” over his election as the prime minister. The Sharifs have a personal relationship with Erdogan, who was also the first foreign leader to call Imran Khan, when he was elected as the prime minister in August 2018.
The telephone call by the Turkish president triggered a debate on social media as former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi earlier claimed that he had received a telephone call from his Turkish counterpart, who expressed concerns over the regime-change in Pakistan through a foreign conspiracy.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Modi wasted no time and facilitated the prime minister on Twitter. “Congratulations to H.E. Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on his election as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror, so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people.”
Congratulations to H. E. Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on his election as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror, so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 11, 2022
In his first speech as the prime minister earlier, Shehbaz sought better ties with India but stressed the need for resolution of the long standing issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
Relationship between Pakistan and India have remained tense for many years now. There were some hopes of a thaw in February last year when both sides agreed to renew the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC).
But the process could not move forward as efforts to resume partial trade between the two countries were scuttled by the Imran Khan government. The Sharif brothers are viewed favourably in India given their past attempts to improve ties between the two South Asian neighbours.
But given Shehbaz is heading a coalition government and facing serious domestic political and economic issues, it is highly unlikely there would be major forward movement on the ties between India and Pakistan.
On the other hand, Chinese state media has welcomed the election of Shehbaz Sharif as the country’s new prime minister. Shehbaz enjoys a good reputation in the Chinese circle as he has often been credited with accelerating work on the China-Pakistan Economic Projects (CPEC).
According to China’s state run media, Beijing expects improvement in relationship with Pakistan as a result of Shehbaz Sharif becoming the prime minister. “The potential successor of Khan from the Sharif family, which has been promoting China-Pakistan ties for a long time and cooperation between the two countries could be even better than under Khan,” according to the Global Times.
Former prime minister Imran Khan has kept insisting that he was removed from power through a US backed conspiracy since he was pursuing independent foreign policy. But observers ask if that was the case then why did Chinese state media was happy over the change of government in Islamabad.
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