Modi inauguration: Historic meeting kindles hope of new beginning

Published: May 27, 2014
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India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) is greeted by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif (3rd R) after Modi took the oath of office at the presidential palace in New Delhi May 26, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) is greeted by his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif (3rd R) after Modi took the oath of office at the presidential palace in New Delhi May 26, 2014. PHOTO: REUTERS

ISLAMABAD: 

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has apparently gone to New Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi but his visit has generated optimism of a ‘new beginning’ in a relationship marred by decades of hostilities between the two neighbours.

The immediate Pakistani expectation is that Nawaz-Modi meeting today (Tuesday) will eventually pave the way for the resumption of stalled peace process between the two nuclear-armed countries.

Known as a composite dialogue, the process has made little progress over the past few years due to New Delhi’s approach linking the peace talks with Islamabad successfully prosecuting suspects of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Just hours before the crucial meeting, Indian experts have warned the newly-elected prime minister against letting off the hook the issue of so-called cross border terrorism.

But despite such assertions by certain Indian media outlets, a foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune that given the composition of prime minister’s delegation, the Nawaz-Modi rendezvous is much more than just a courtesy call.

Prime Minister Nawaz will be assisted by his advisers on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, Tariq Fatemi and foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry while the Indian prime minister will be accompanied by India’s new Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj during the much-talked about meeting.

The official said Modi’s unprecedented invitation to leaders from the South Asian countries including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was a clear indication that ‘Modi means business.’

A senior member of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) feels that Modi will try to ‘clean his past’ by reaching out to Pakistan.

The new Indian prime minister is widely known in Pakistan as a man who has been accused of orchestrating the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in his Gujarat state.

“He wants to dispel the impression that he is anti-Muslim and that is why he invited our prime minister,” said the PML-N leader while requesting anonymity.

India officials familiar with the foreign policy vision of Modi’s government believe that his administration will work on strengthening regional grouping such as South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

People close to Modi are of the view that his government will focus more on improving ties with regional countries instead of looking to the West. They even think that Modi feels that countries such as India, China and Pakistan could form a strong economic bloc.

But some analysts and diplomats attempted to downplay the hype and suggested that Pakistan should have ‘minimum expectations’ from the new government at this stage.

“The mature approach is that we should not have high expectations,” commented former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar.

Khokhar, who had been part of intense negotiations with Indian interlocutors during the latter part of Musharraf regime, does not expect any ‘substantive discussions’ when Nawaz meets Modi in a historic meeting being closely watched not only in the two countries but also across the globe.

Officially, Pakistan foreign ministry also refused to speculate on expectations from the new Indian government.

However, at the same time foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said Islamabad hoped the new Indian government, realising the importance of peaceful neighbourhood, would resume the dialogue process.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) move to invite Prime Minister Nawaz at Modi’s oath-taking has come as a surprise for many considering the party’s strong rhetoric against Pakistan during the election campaign.

But Khokhar believes that pre-election statements of the BJP leadership should not be taken seriously. The foreign office also expressed the hope that the BJP would leave behind the pre-election rhetoric.

“We hope that when the new government takes over, the kind of atmosphere that prevailed during the election rallies will be left behind and we will get down to the business of statecraft,” said Tasnim.

Experts are also of the view that given his economic agenda and strong backing of India’s corporate sector, it is expected that Modi would want to have stable relations with Pakistan.

“The Indian corporate sector does not want war and this will really compel Modi to have good ties with Pakistan,” said analyst Hassan Askari Rizvi.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • objective observer
    May 27, 2014 - 9:59AM

    Is it jist me or do they look like they are trying to out do each other in the firmness of thier handshake?

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  • May 27, 2014 - 10:07AM

    Modi gets Sharif

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  • CC
    May 27, 2014 - 10:35AM

    3 cheers for peace and prosperity!!

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  • Mega
    May 27, 2014 - 10:50AM

    “He wAnts to shed image he is anti Muslim that is why he invited us” stupid comment. If that was so he dint have to invite Pakistan, we had already invited Bangladesh and Maldives representatives who were Muslims. He wanted saarc meet, development and growth discussed in South Asia. But these people will only view things from the lens of religion.

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  • Rahul
    May 27, 2014 - 10:57AM

    Laughable why does he need Pakistan to shed his past or anti Muslim image? Can’t he reach indian Muslims? And Bangladesh and Maldives already fit meet the Muslim criteria. Don’t need Pakistan for it. This was to have one on one meeting to judge how one views another. He is very self made and doesn’t care what certain people think of him.Btw his past is clean Supreme Court have vindicated him. Can across the border think anything except religion?

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  • May 27, 2014 - 11:02AM

    “He wants to dispel the impression
    that he is anti-Muslim and that is why
    he invited our prime minister,” said
    the PML-N leader while requesting
    anonymity.

    are you representatives of Muslims ?

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  • vasan
    May 27, 2014 - 11:28AM

    “He wants to dispel the impression that he is anti-Muslim and that is why he invited our prime minister,” said the PML-N leader while requesting anonymity.
    Let the official remain anonymous, lest the identity of the stupidity exposed. Convincing Pakistan is not even the last item in Modiji’s agenda. Pakistanis think that the world revolves around them, What an imagination.

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  • vasan
    May 27, 2014 - 11:29AM

    “He wants to dispel the impression that he is anti-Muslim and that is why he invited our prime minister,” said the PML-N leader while requesting anonymity.
    Let the official remain anonymous, lest the identity of the stupidity be exposed. Convincing Pakistan is not even the last item in Modiji’s agenda. Pakistanis think that the world revolves around them, What an imagination.

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  • Haider
    May 27, 2014 - 11:59AM

    This is a wise decision to attending swearing-in ceremony, by which an evident message can be given to India that we are looking forward to resolve issues between indo-pak. despite of most of his speech contains outrageous statements, but i believe it can could be part of election campaign.

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  • goggi (Lahore)
    May 27, 2014 - 12:09PM

    As long as the Pakistani and Indian armies and the media stand under the high command of the western weapon mafia, good intentions for peace are pipe dreams.

    Today’s frontpage news in Times of India ………… While Nawaz Sharif talks peace, Pak Rangers violate LoC truce……………..and accordingly the comments of the Indians!

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  • May 27, 2014 - 12:14PM

    Give Modi and Nawaz a chance at peace. Both sides must go the extra mile. The gambit by Modi and its return by Nawaz is a good beginning. let’s build on it. Salams

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  • Dhanish
    May 27, 2014 - 1:29PM

    @the skunk what chance after Herat and today’s border firings? What did karzai say about who’s responsible for it? What about Punjab govt allotting millions from state fund budget to JUD? Is this the way you all do peace?

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  • observer
    May 27, 2014 - 1:53PM

    South Asian Countries have tremendous potential. There should be a way ordinary folks in Saarc Countries can get together for the betterment of the region. There should be minimum government interference in people to people contact. Visa’s should be done away with altogether, so people can travel easily. All barriers should be done away with. There should be a South Asian Airline specifically run by all South Asian Countries as co-owners. There should be Universities jointly run by South Asian Countries, there are countless ways in which we can improve, all it takes is the will, just imagine, no money, just a question of a mind set, that is all it takes to improve.

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  • Gp65
    May 27, 2014 - 11:22PM

    How exactly would Modi’s past be cleaned by reqching out to Pakistan -assuming he has a past to clean?

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  • Gp65
    May 27, 2014 - 11:30PM

    Neither Indian corporate sector not the poor Indian wants war. There is no need to compel Modi to not start a war. His mandate was for development and governance. But if Mr. Hasan Askari Rizvi thinks that the response to another event like 26/11 will be as tame as that by Manmohan Singh because of corporate pressure, then he is mistaken. India is a status quo country and unless it is attacked by Pakistan (state or non-state actors), there will be peace.

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