Sharif puts best foot forward for long walk next door

  • Premier accepts invitation to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in, will leave for Delhi tomorrow on two-day visit
  • One-on-one meeting between both premiers expected



In an important move widely hailed in Pakistan and India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has accepted India’s invitation to attend the oath-taking ceremony of the neighbouring country’s prime minister-elect Narendra Modi.

A one-on-one meeting is also likely to be held between the premier and his Indian counterpart to discuss Indo-Pak relationship and resumption of bilateral dialogue.

The decision was made after a series of consultations that the premier held with his close aides. Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz said that he had a series of meetings yesterday and a day before with the premier in which the issue was discussed.


The Foreign Office has also announced the schedule of the visit of Prime Minister Sharif to India, saying it would be a two-day visit.

“In response to the invitation to the oath-taking ceremony of Prime Minister-designate of India, Narendra Modi, the prime minister would be travelling to New Delhi on May 26. Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Secretary to the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary would accompany him,” Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

The spokesperson said that according to the programme received from India, the prime minister will have a bilateral meeting with Modi on the morning of May 27. She said the premier would also call on Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and after completion of his meetings, he would return to Pakistan in the afternoon of May 27.

Sharif is among the leaders of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) invited by Modi. It is the first time in Indian history that leaders from neighbouring countries have been invited to the swearing-in ceremony of a prime minister.

Analysts had asserted that a slightly delayed response was due to the fact that Pakistan would be keen to insert a meaningful agenda during the usually accommodated bilateral talks even if the occasion has a multi-lateral flavour.


During the election campaign, Modi took a tough stance on Pakistan’s role in sponsoring terror attacks in India. However, since his victory, he has softened his stand somewhat. He has said that he would like to engage India’s neighbours and have friendly relations with them.

Sharif had also hailed Modi’s “impressive victory” and many diplomats hope the two men can thaw ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Modi’s ambitious economic agenda will require India to open markets and normalise trade with neighbours. He may find Sharif, a proponent of free markets with a history of conciliatory gestures towards New Delhi, a worthy ally.

The relationship improved the last time the BJP took power, in 1998, under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who rode a bus to Lahore during Sharif’s previous stint in power to sign a peace accord.

Also on Friday night, Sharif’s daughter rooted for cordial relations. “I personally think cordial relations with new Indian govt should be cultivated. It will help remove psychological barriers, fear & misgivings. It’s upon the leaders to lead their countries & people to peace & conciliation,” Maryam Nawaz Sharif tweeted. The first daughter is also expected to accompany her father to India to attend the event.