ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday phoned Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi to congratulate him on his party’s win in Indian elections and invited him to visit Pakistan.

Mr Sharif was among the first world leaders to have called Mr Modi for greeting him on the electoral victory, which he described as “impressive”.

In a statement about Mr Sharif’s phone call, the Foreign Office said: “Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif spoke to Mr Narendra Modi this afternoon and offered his congratulations and good wishes on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s impressive victory in the just-concluded general elections in India.”

During the brief conversation, Mr Modi underscored his desire to fight poverty that has been plaguing not just India but the entire region.

For this, diplomats believe, Mr Modi, once elected as the Indian prime minister, will have to work with Pakistan.

Mr Sharif has repeatedly expressed his government’s commitment to improving ties with India, but could find Mr Modi to be a tough dealmaker particularly at a time when the two countries have to rebuild their fractured relations following the LoC (Line of Control) tensions of last year.

Resumption of cross-LoC skirmishes in the last couple of weeks and an incident involving attack on a Pakistani student in India do not provide the best of platforms for attempting to improve the ties.

Many analysts in Pakistan have rather been wary of a BJP victory in the elections. Modi, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activist, is known in Pakistan for his anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan views.

Moreover, it is feared that delays in trial of Mumbai attack suspects, issue of non-state actors, BJP’s tougher stance on Kashmir, and its electoral manifesto of giving up the no-first use policy with respect to nuclear weapons could impede progress in rebuilding ties.

However, other analysts say achievements on the bilateral front during the BJP’s last government under A.B. Vajpayee, and Modi’s development-oriented agenda provide reasons for being optimistic.

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit has said: “Pakistan will be willing to engage with the next government comprehensively and meaningfully.”

Meanwhile, Indian High Commissioner T.C.A. Raghavan was quoted by the APP news agency as having said that with the completion of elections in India, the two countries would start working for improving their political, diplomatic and economic ties.

Talking to journalists here, the Indian envoy appeared to be confident that the new Indian government would make sincere efforts to improve ties with Pakistan.

He expressed the hope that the dialogue process between the two countries will resume very soon.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2014

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