The invitation extended by India to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the oath-taking of prime minister-elect Narendra Modi, next week, somewhat alters the rather bleak picture that had been put forward in terms of the future of India-Pakistan relations. The invite, as well as recent comments from Mr Modi, suggests he is not averse to a good working relationship with Islamabad, and one can only hope that Mr Sharif, on the advice of his Foreign Office, will accept the invitation.
Mr Sharif has, of course, consistently sought good ties with India and the invitation to the Rashtrapati Bhavan appears to offer a valuable opportunity that should not be missed, especially with a new government in India. Similar invitations have gone out to all South Asian leaders and many, it seems, will be present at the ceremony. Mr Modi may have created controversy around the world with his actions in the past. But the fact is that, like all other countries, Pakistan will need to deal with his presence as the Indian head of government for the next five years. In this sense, it would be logical for Mr Sharif to accept with good grace this symbolic hand of friendship that has come his way from New Delhi.
The future, of course, is as yet undetermined. Many things are to be decided and foreign policy to some degree will evolve as the new government in India lays out its plans. It seems, however, that as far as its neighbour to the west is concerned, the BJP may be having a change of heart. The signs that it is willing to alter its policies is a good omen. Mr Modi’s harsh attacks on Pakistan and on Muslims in India cannot, of course, be entirely forgotten. But, as they say, the practicalities of life have to go on and when a good offer comes Pakistan’s way, it would seem wise to accept it. This is what Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif seems to do as he embarks on what will be a new journey in terms of relations with India. For the people of both countries, we must hope this journey goes well.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2014.
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