Sharif says yes to Modi

Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, breaking years of stalemate, has agreed to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony as prime minister of India on 26 May. Sharif will be arriving in New Delhi on Monday morning along with senior officials, which includes his adviser on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz, special assistant Tariq Fatemi and foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry.

A press statement issued by the Pakistan’s PMO reads, ‘In response to the invitation to the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister-designate of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, the prime minister would be travelling to New Delhi on May 26, 2014.’ ‘He will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi on the morning of 27 May. He would also call on the President of India. The Prime Minister would return to Pakistan in the afternoon of 27 May 2014,’ it adds.

The meeting of the two leaders (Modi and Sharif) — in the midst of threat to Sharif from hardliners in Pakistan — is being considered as significant in terms of initiating ‘fresh dialogues’ between the two countries, which stopped after the Mumbai terror attack in 2008. In 2013, Sharif became the prime minister of Pakistan and he wanted to start a fresh dialogue with India. However, his initiative was criticised and was prevented by the Muslim fundamentalists and the Pakistan army.

Sharif’s approval to attend the ceremony came after the final approval from the Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif. Sources said the army chief had a meeting with Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif (chief minister of Punjab) on Friday. Considering the importance of the visit, Sharif was ‘allowed’ to attend the ceremony. 

Sharif’s daughter Maryam welcomed the decision and tweeted, ‘I personally think cordial relations with new Indian government should be cultivated. Will help remove psychological barriers, fear and misgivings. It’s upon the leaders to lead their countries and people to peace & conciliation.’

It would be after nine years that the PMs of two neighbouring countries will be meeting for better international relations in terms of trade, education, healthcare, export, import etc. Former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf was the last Pakistani head of state to visit India in 2005. Last year, outgoing  PM Manmohan Singh had declined Sharif’s invitation to attend his oath taking ceremony after the general election.

Media adviser to Pakistan PM, Tariq Azim in press statement, said, ‘Hope this will usher in a new era between India and Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif has always said that he wants to maintain good relations with all neighbouring countries, especially with India.’ Overwhelmed with Pakistan’s response, BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said, ‘It is very good news that he (Sharif) is coming to India. Now time has come to initiate a fresh journey.’

Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah tweeted, ‘Very glad to hear Pak PM has accepted invite, shows that he can prevail over forces inimical to good relations with India.’

Senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said, ‘Photo opportunities are okay, but in the euphoria of coronation, Modi should not compromise national interest.’

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