NEW DELHI: Suddenly everyone wants to do business with new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said here on Monday he had an edge because both the leaders had a reputation of embracing business-friendly policies.
“I am here to turn a new page in India-Pakistan relations,” Mr Sharif told the Hindustan Times ahead of his globally watched handshake with Mr Modi, the first foreign leader to do so after the Indian leader was sworn-in in a magnificent ceremony at the British-built Presidential Palace.
The two will hold a bilateral meeting on Tuesday.
“We (India and Pakistan) have a historic moment to open a new chapter. The new government under Mr Modi has a strong mandate and I look forward to picking up the relationship from where I and (A.B.) Vajpayee left it in 1999,” Mr Sharif said.
On his first official trip to India as prime minster (he last came for Rajiv Gandhi’s funeral), Mr Sharif looked set to drive an agenda of “trade and economics” at his bilateral meeting with Modi, The Hindustan Times said.
“I am regarded as a friend of businessmen and we are regarded as a business-friendly government. Modi too is perceived as a business-friendly person. He has a model of development,” the Pakistan premier said. “We can easily work with each other.”
Indeed, Indian companies such as the Adani Group have proposed producing electricity to be sold to Pakistan. But such proposals have not taken off, the paper said. On Monday, Mr Sharif once again reminded Indian businesses of such opportunities.
“I will be happy to have Indians invest in Pakistan. We have an acute shortage of energy. If Indians come, they will find Pakistani markets very attractive, with returns as high as 30 per cent.”
Asked if he was willing to give an assurance that terrorism would no longer be sponsored from Pakistani soil, a point likely to be taken up at his meeting with Mr Modi, the Pakistani premier was positive.
“We have lost thousands of lives. Our economy has suffered at the hands of terrorists. Who can be more serious than us regarding eliminating terror from the region,” he said Sharif took care to avoid answering any qtuestions relating to his relationship with his army chief or statements issued by jihadi hardliners such as Hafiz Saeed, who had warned the Pakistani premier against his trip to India.
The Pakistan premier is among the six South Asian leaders invited for the ceremony. Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa are also in Delhi.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and US President Barrack Obama were among the leaders to greet and woo Mr Modi after he took the oath of office. Premier Li said China viewed India as a “natural cooperative partner” and it was ready to work with the Narendra Modi-led government to take their strategic cooperative partnership to a “new level”.
Congratulating Mr Modi on being sworn in as India’s 15th prime minister, the Chinese premier said: “China and India are important neighbours to each other and the top two emerging markets in the world. China-India relations have moved beyond the bilateral scope and taken on global and strategic significance.”
“By working together for peaceful, cooperative and common development, China and India will not only bring benefits to their own people but also contribute to peace, stability and prosperity of Asia and beyond. China stands ready to work with India to bring China-India strategic cooperative partnership for peace and prosperity to a new level,” he was quoted as saying in an official statement.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2014