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LeT claim weakens Sharif’s message to Modi

Updated June 12, 2014


Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) and Indian premier Narendra Modi (R). — File Photo
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) and Indian premier Narendra Modi (R). — File Photo

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has told his Indian counterpart in a letter released here on Thursday that he wants to work in harmony with him to resolve all unsettled matters. On the other hand, India, says The Hindu in an analysis, is wary of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s call to avenge this week’s attack on Karachi airport, which the group says was carried out by New Delhi.

While in his letter to Mr Modi, Mr Sharif has sought to put to rest speculation, mainly in opposition ranks in Pakistan, that his visit to Delhi was a failure, the brazen attack in Karachi, which apparently came after the letter to Mr Modi was dispatched, has weakened any basis for optimism the Pakistani leader might have exuded in the well intended missive.

Add to this a wider unfolding scenario of relevance to both countries. At the back of the mind, few strategists in either country can ignore the rumblings in Mosul where the essentially extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has extended its ‘Khilafat’ close to Iraq’s border with Syria, which is already under the sway of the ultras. And though there may have been no apparent coordination in the timing of the Mosul thrust and the effort to paralyse Pakistan’s aviation virtually simultaneously, both events do share at least a degree of ideological nexus.

Lashkar-e-Taiba says India behind Karachi airport attack

While Mr Sharif’s focus in his letter was on bilateral mending of fences with an eye to a create a more secure future for South Asia, developments within his country and in its wider vicinity do threaten to undo the good intentions, not unlike Kargil that followed Lahore, as Indian sleuths would be eager to remind.

“I look forward to working with you in harmony on all unsettled matters for the benefit of both nations. Hope that our endeavours will lay the foundation of a much brighter future,” Mr Sharif said in the letter which was delivered at the PMO by the Pakistan High Commission over the weekend.

Mr Sharif was among the leaders of all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation nations, as well as that of Mauritius, who attended Mr Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on May 26. This was followed by bilateral talks between the two prime ministers the next day.

Sections of the media in Pakistan, however, questioned the meeting’s outcome, claiming that Mr Sharif was “not too happy’’ with the way India handled his visit.

The letter, however, has tried to dispel all such reports. “I must say that I have returned much satisfied with our meaningful exchange of thoughts on matters of bilateral and regional interest,” Mr Sharif wrote.

“It is the millions living in poverty in both countries who deserve our foremost attention. I firmly believe that in our concerted efforts lies the welfare and prosperity of our two nations,’’ he added.

On his return from the Indian capital, Mr Sharif had, in a reciprocal gesture, sent a shawl as gift to Mr Modi’s mother, Hiraba.

Mr Modi had gifted a shawl for Mr Sharif’s mother.

According to The Hindu, however, the Lashkar-e-Taiba has blamed India for the Karachi airport attack, the latest of many signs that it may be preparing the ground for terror strikes.

In his election campaign Mr Modi had heaped scorn on the Manmohan Singh government for not doing anything after Mumbai was attacked in November 2008. “Mr Modi promised to hit back, but can he?” asked The Hindu.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s intelligence services fear, may have to answer that question sooner than most people expect. The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) staged its first operation against an Indian target since 26/11 just hours before Mr Modi took office, attacking India’s mission in Herat. Lashkar chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed blamed Mr Modi for this week’s attacks on Karachi — and demanded vengeance,” The Hindu reported.

“Every sane person should hope Mr Modi will never be required to exercise any of his military options — but thinking through war is just as important as talking peace,” it said.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2014