FO favours Sharif’s visit to India

Published May 23, 2014
- Photo by Suhail Yusuf.
- Photo by Suhail Yusuf.

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office has recommended to Prime Minister Nawaz Sha­rif to accept the Indian invitation to attend the oath-taking ceremony of premier-elect Narendra Modi on May 26.

The government is, however, yet to take a final decision on the invitation received on Wednesday.

Mr Modi has invited the leaders of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) to the ceremony.

The invitation for Mr Sharif has sparked a debate in the country on whether or not it should be accepted, particularly in view of strains in bilateral ties and non-acceptance of Pakistani invitation by Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in the past.

“The Foreign Office has made the recommendation and the decision will most likely be in favour,” a senior diplomat at the FO told Dawn on Thursday. Explaining the position taken by the FO on the invitation, the official said: “It will be a mistake to let this opportunity go. We need to see beyond today.”

Prime Minister Sharif had phoned Mr Modi to congratulate him on his party’s election victory and invited him to visit Pakistan after assuming office.

Though the BJP’s victory in elections was cautiously received in Pakistan because of the party’s extremist views and hardline position on issues concerning Pakistan, the government’s official position has been that it will “comprehensively and meaningfully” engage with the Modi government.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Ahmed Shah has also urged Mr Sharif to accept the invitation in the larger interest of the people of the two countries.

Talking to reporters in his Parliament House chamber, Mr Shah said such a gesture would help improve the situation in the region and the people in both countries would heave a sigh of relief.

“Better relations between India and Pakistan are in the interest of the poor people in both the countries,” he said, adding that it was time that the two countries worked for development of their nations instead of focusing on fights.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam told reporters at the weekly briefing on Thursday that “whether the prime minister would attend or not will be decided some time today”.

She said Pakistan’s expectation from the meeting, if it takes place, would be that it led to resumption of the dialogue process that would be “meaningful and constructive; a dialogue with a view to resolving the outstanding disputes between our two countries so that this region can have durable peace. “We expect this dialogue to be uninterrupted and uninterruptible”.

The spokesperson expressed the hope that bitterness towards Pakistan shown during the election campaign would subside after the formation of government in India.

“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 states craft,” she said.

Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2014

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