With a formal invitation extended by President Asif Ali Zardari, India’s prime minister is expected to visit Pakistan as soon as November this year amidst signs of improved relations between the two nations.
Diplomatic sources have confirmed that Islamabad and New Delhi are finalising the dates for Dr Manmohan Singh’s maiden trip to Pakistan.
President Zardari formally invited Dr Singh to visit the country through a letter sent on Friday to him through Pakistan’s mission in New Delhi, according to presidential spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar.
Senator Babar, in a statement, also hinted that Singh might visit Pakistan in November.
“If the visit were to coincide with the birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak, that would not only be well received by the Pakistani nation but would also reinforce our mutual desire to promote inter-faith and inter-religious harmony,” President Zardari said in the letter.
He also recalled his meeting with the Indian prime minister in New Delhi during his visit to Ajmer Sharif and expressed satisfaction over the headway made so far in the dialogue process.
“The president expressed hope that the engagements will help promote our ties in the right direction and help in realising our shared dream of a peaceful and prosperous South Asia,” the statement added.
Singh will be the first Indian premier to visit Islamabad since 2004 when the then Indian chief executive Atal Behari Vajpayee held ice-breaking talks with military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
“Time is running out for Pakistan to sincerely change its foreign relations paradigm. For PM Singh, in the twilight of his career, this perhaps is his last chance to be magnanimous and go down in the annals of history as a statesman, not a mere politician,” remarked Harris Khalique, poet and writer.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Singh himself announced he was ready for a visit to Pakistan, in anticipation that the move would prove fruitful.
Singh’s visit would signal a visible thaw in Pakistan-India relations, which deteriorated after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks and prove to be the fruit of behind-the-scenes diplomatic engagement between Pakistan and India since the attack.
Recently, the two countries also decided to revive their bilateral cricket ties with the Pakistani team visiting India for one-day and T20 matches in the first such series in five years.
Ahead of the important trip, foreign ministers of both countries are due to meet in September to review the progress made so far in the resumed peace process.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister S M Krishna, said during a visit to Srinagar that Singh would visit Pakistan soon.
Friendship between the two countries has become inevitable, especially after New Delhi and Islamabad reconciled over several sensitive issues, according to Krishna.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.