Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday accepted India's invitation to attend the oath-taking ceremony of the neighboring country's Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi, a spokesman for the Prime Minister House said.
The decision was made after a series of consultations that the premier held with his close aides.
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz told Dawn that he had a series of meetings yesterday and day before with the premier in which the issue was discussed.
Moreover, Foreign Office spokeswoman said details of the visit were being worked out with the Indian authorities, including the composition of the prime minister’s delegation.
She said it was most likely that Aziz would accompany Prime Minister Sharif to New Delhi.
Sharif is among the leaders of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) invited by Modi. It is the first time in Indian history that leaders from neighboring countries have been invited to the swearing-in ceremony of a prime minister.
Analysts had asserted that a slightly delayed response was due to the fact that Pakistan would be keen to insert a meaningful agenda during the usually accommodated bilateral talks even if the occasion has a multi-lateral flavor.
The Foreign office has announced the schedule of the visit of the Prime Minister Sharif to India saying it would be a two day visit.
"In response to the invitation to the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister-designate of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister would be traveling to New Delhi on May 26, 2014. Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Secretary to the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary would accompany him,” Foreign Office spokeswoman told dawn.
The spokesperson said according to the program received from India, the prime minister will have a bilateral meeting with Modi on the morning of May 27.
She said the premier would also call on the President of India and after completion of his meetings, he would return to Pakistan in the afternoon of May 27, 2014.
The above news item is a positive indication on behalf of the new Indian government. Pakistan's response is also encouraging. Pakistan's Prime Minister had congratulated the Prime Minister-designate on his election victory and invited him to visit Pakistan. The Indian invitation and its acceptance by Pakistan creates a friendly atmosphere for the two countries to proceed further. However, following needs to be carefully considered:
1. Pakistan and India have engaged in friendly overtures calling it “cricket diplomacy” when the Pakistan Prime Minister visited India to watch a cricket match between the two countries. That helped in creating a positive atmosphere, which soon diminished under the thick cloud of suspicion and mistrust on both sides.
2. All incentives aimed at improving ties between the two South Asian neighbors have met an unfortunate end due to lack of flexibility and expression of rigidity mostly from the Indian side.
3. The Indians having a position of clear advantage on Pakistan due to a much larger geographical size, a more powerful military force, bigger economy and population have never given a breathing space to their smaller neighbor on the negotiating table.
4. To Pakistan's proposals of a No-War Pact, Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in South Asia, Demilitarization in the disputed region of Kashmir, sharing of intelligence between the military institutions, exchange of cultural, social and media delegations, fair distribution of water resources, promotion of commerce and trade and continuation of bilateral dialogue, India was always found back tracking or denying the existence of vital issues altogether.
5. In the backdrop of a deep mistrust, broken promises and half hearted peace building measures, a show of handshakes behind the flags of both countries in the flush of the cameras is not enough to guarantee that the leadership of both countries truly aims to bring peace and prosperity to their region.
6. It is optimism that keeps the hope alive that this first high level contact between Pakistan and India will usher in a new era of peace bringing the two neighbors closer than never before.
Pakistan, India and for other countries of South Asia, peace and diplomacy is the only way forward. Afghanistan will live in relative peace if Pakistan and India agree to help it strengthen its economic and political institutions. Now is the time to act together, work hand in hand to give peace a real chance. It is important to preserve peace and security in order to fight the menace of terrorism, which is bent upon tearing the social fabric of this region similar to other parts of the world.
Dawn News May 24, 2014