ISLAMABAD: Always a sought-after affair, the latest meeting between Pakistani and Indian prime ministers, this time in Ufa, Russia, brought mixed reactions from the two major opposition parties of the country on Friday.

While the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party hoped the meeting would help bring about sustainable peace in the region, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf expressed dismay “at the manner in which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appeased India in his meeting with the Indian PM”.

In a brief statement, the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah, said the meeting between Mr Sharif and Narendra Modi should not only translate into friendly ties between their two countries but should also lead to peace and prosperity in the region.

The leaders of the two countries have been meeting off and on but the need of the hour was to transform such meetings into result-oriented occasions so that people of the region could enjoy better living standards, said Mr Shah.

About Kashmir, he said practical measures should be taken by the two sides to resolve the issue as early as possible.

“Look at China; how it has made progress over the years with its policy of peaceful coexistence,” Mr Shah said.

On her part, Dr Shireen Mazari, the spokesperson for PTI chief and member of the National Assembly’s standing committee on foreign affairs, criticised the manner in which Mr Sharif and his team handled the meeting.

“At a time when the Indian leadership is actively targeting Pakistan at all international forums, from the United Nations Security Council to the BRICS (Brazil, Russia India, China, South Africa) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summits, the Pakistani premier was unable to use the opportunity to put forward Pakistan’s case, especially in relation to terrorism and Indian involvement in the same especially in Balochistan,” she said.

“Even more shameful,” she said, “at a time when the Indian leadership is actively sabotaging the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and hurling all manner of accusations against Pakistan as well as seeking sanctions against it, PM Sharif went out of the way to invite Mr Modi to attend Saarc summit in Pakistan.”

PPP hopes talks will lead to better ties

It was equally disturbing to “witness the Pakistani PM’s absolute silence on Kashmir and Indian involvement in Balochistan”, she said. “Mr Modi raised Mumbai and Mr Sharif agreed to fast track the investigations. (Also) not a word on Samjhauta Express was uttered by PM Sharif.”

Dr Mazari was of the view that Mr Sharif went beyond the requirements of diplomatic protocol by issuing an invitation to Mr Modi to attend the Saarc summit in Pakistan in 2016, “providing the Indians an opportunity to play up Mr Modi as a man of peace”.

She said the invitation was unnecessary as the same could have gone out as a matter of routine. “Sadly, while the Indian foreign ministry and media have taken the initiative to define the narrative of the Sharif-Modi meeting, our foreign office and information department have been caught napping again.”

The PTI leader said that everyone wanted peace and stability in the region but peace could not be achieved through appeasement.

“It has to be premised on mutual respect and conflict resolution. The present Indian leadership has shown no inclination towards either,” she said.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2015

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