Making history, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he would travel to New Delhi for the swearing-in ceremony of India’s new prime minister.
Narendra Modi, as you might remember, made history on his own when his BJP party drove out of power the party that had long dominated the world’s largest democracy.
Sharif’s attendance at Modi’s swearing in will mark a first for the two countries, historical foes.
“A statement from Mr. Sharif’s office said the Prime Minister had been invited this week by the BJP to attend the ceremony. Mr. Sharif has already congratulated Mr. Modi over his party’s landslide victory in the recent Lok Sabha elections.
“State-run Pakistan Television said Mr. Sharif also would meet with President Pranab Mukherjee during his visit.
“Sharif, who will reach New Delhi on Monday, would be accompanied by his Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry, among others.”
Sharif’s spokesman, Tariq Azim, set expectations for the meeting.
“Hope this will usher in a new era between India and Pakistan. Nawaz Sharif has always said that he wants to maintain good relations with all neighbouring countries, specially with India,” he told the TV station. But, he added, “We should not burden the meeting with many expectations.”
“Though the India and Pakistan haven’t fought a major ground war since 1999, relations between the two nations, particularly along their disputed border in Kashmir, remain tense. Starting last summer and continuing throughout the fall, the two armies repeatedly lobbed rockets across the border in what military leaders in both countries called the worst border violence since a 2003 cease-fire.
” ‘I hope that this will mark a new beginning in ties between our two countries,’ Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, wrote on Twitter Saturday. ‘The people of J&K will be watching closely.’
“While most analysts believe Sharif’s hope of improving ties with India is sincere, they say he had to carefully consider the possible political ramifications of such a visit. Just hours after the Indian government said they had invited Sharif, India’s consulate in Herat, Afghanistan was attacked by four gunmen who were eventually killed by security forces. On Friday, a spokesman from India’s Ministry of External Affairs cautioned against drawing conclusions about whether the events were linked, saying the investigation had just begun, but opposition politicians in India took note.”