All eyes on Nawaz as Modi awaits response

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  • Government likely to issue statement today while PM’s House spokesman says no decision has been taken so far
  • FO spokeswoman says a representative may be nominated if Nawaz could not make it

 

The government on Thursday remained involved in a hectic consultation to weigh options whether or not to accept the invitation to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend the oath-taking ceremony of Indian prime minister-elect Narendra Modi.

Sources informed Pakistan Today that the Foreign Office had recommended Nawaz to take an initiative and try to improve bilateral relations with the BJP leader who otherwise is seen as an anti-Pakistan hawk.

“The Foreign Ministry has recommended the prime minister to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the new Indian leader. It is hoped that the government would announce a positive statement in this regard today (Friday),” a source in the ruling party revealed.

This would not be the first time that Nawaz would be making a breakthrough in improving ties with India. In 1998, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif invited Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to visit Pakistan and inaugurate Dosti Bus Service in Lahore.

The source added that Nawaz would accept the invitation to visit India. He asserted that the government circles had advised the prime minister against sending his emissary to the ceremony as it would leave a bad impression. Rather, the source added, there was an opening and the PM should avail this opportunity to improve relations with India.

Prime Minister’s House spokesman Mohiuddin Wani said that no decision had yet been taken in this regard.

A military source said that the prime minister had not sought advice from the General Headquarters (GHQ) about his possible visit.

Separately, Foreign Office (FO) spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam in her weekly briefing said that a formal invitation has been received but any decision to attend the ceremony on May 26 would be taken later.

She indicated that a representative may be nominated if Nawaz could not make it, saying that it was a “normal practice” and would not breach protocol.

She said Pakistan expected a ‘meaningful dialogue’ with India after Modi takes oath as the Indian prime minister. Tasneem said Pakistan would bring all outstanding issues on the table with India if a meeting between Nawaz and Modi takes place anytime. She said all disputes including Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, water issues, trade and economic agenda, transnational crimes and people-to-people contacts would come under discussion. She said Pakistan has expectations that India would come forward for the resumption of meaningful and constructive composite dialogue process, so that both the countries could focus on sustainable peace and development of the region. She said Pakistan wants all bilateral disputes resolved.

Pakistan’s ambivalence on the invitation to Nawaz is seen by observers in New Delhi as a manifestation of the tussle between the elected government and the all-powerful army establishment in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, other key SAARC leaders, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom have confirmed that they would attend the ceremony.

Bangladesh will be represented by Speaker Shirin Chaudhury as Premier Sheikh Hasina is travelling to Japan. Mauritius Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam will also be attending the swearing-in ceremony.

Immediately after BJP’s landslide victory, world leaders including US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin called Modi to congratulate him. Modi through his twitter handle thanked the leaders for their wishes.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee will administer oath to Modi as 15th Indian PM. The ceremony will be attended by over 3,000 guests.

In New Delhi, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said protocol arrangements for foreign dignitaries at the swearing-in ceremony would be overseen by a senior and seasoned diplomat.

Hectic preparations are on at Rashtrapati Bhawan for the exercise. Secretary to President Pranab Mukherjee, Amita Paul, has held a series of meetings with officials from various ministries and Delhi police and security agencies to make arrangements in this regard.

Following in the footsteps of Vajpayee, Modi has expressed his desire to be sworn in at the forecourt so that a large number of visitors can be accommodated. Chandrashekar was another prime minister who had taken oath at the same venue.

1 COMMENT

  1. I hope Nawaz makes the right choice to attend Modi's swearing in ceremony. That way he will know (hear) for sure if Modi is swearing on friendship with neighbours or for politics of vendetta, haha.

    Jokes apart, people on both sides want good relations between the countries and it is time that leaders on both sides act mature and understand the other side's concern and limitations to be able to respond maturely. Trust needs to be built.

    If a Pakistani and an Indian can be good friends in the US or Canada, I am sure they can be good friends back in India and/ or Pakistan.

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