Nawaz unlikely to visit India for Modi’s inauguration

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may not visit New Delhi ‘in haste’ following an invitation by Indian prime minister-elect Narendra Modi to participate in his oath taking ceremony on May 25, according to sources close to the prime minister in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). Besides government’s domestic preoccupations and its ‘uneven relations’ with the army and the media, the aides insist, the prime minister would not like to be taken for granted at the expected mass gathering of several heads of state who might throng Indian capital for Modi’s inauguration.  “In the current scenario, it won’t be politically viable for the PM to rush to India ignoring the home front. His visit to Delhi presently would not be less than offering desserts to his opponents, particularly cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan who does not spare any opportunity to let this government down,” said a close aide of Sharif, requesting not to be quoted. Imran Khan, still a proponent of Pak-India peace, is these days toeing a more right wing line that brings him close to the military establishment which is largely believed ‘not so fond’ of friendship overtures with India sans resolution of Kashmir dispute.  The award of MFN status, re-coined as a preferential trade agreement with India, also hit snags and could not take off following hidden yet obvious objections by the Pakistani military bureaucracy. Though the reduction of trust deficit with India has been on top of Sharif’s agenda since coming into power third time, the domestic compulsions have kept him from taking any drastic step. Observers believe that Sharif has to wait and see what policy the new Indian prime minister adopts towards Pakistan, ahead of considering any visit to Delhi. Sharif is, however, believed to respond positively to any good gestures from his Indian counterpart. With the completion of US drawdown from Afghanistan by the end of this year and the installation of new government under the expected leadership of former foreign minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul, many Pakistani politicians hope that Modi would consider the regional politics pragmatically. In Pakistan, there is also a concern that former Indian PM Manmohan Singh could not reciprocate to official and private visits of Pakistani presidents and prime ministers to India despite repeated invitations. Ex-Pakistani presidents Pervez Musharraf and Asif Zardari and former prime ministers Yousaf Raza Gillani and Raja Pervez Ashraf had made visits to India during their terms in office. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the last Indian PM to visit Pakistan. Sharif’s visit to Delhi in the current situation, according to political pundits, would not be less than a ‘political suicide’.

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