Mian Sharif Still in a Bind Over Modi’s In­vite

Pres­sure from hard­lin­ers has put Pak ad­min­is­tra­tion on back foot and de­layed the fi­nal de­ci­sion on Sharif at­tend­ing Modi’s swear­ing-in cer­e­mony

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

Hours af­ter in­di­cat­ing on Thurs­day that Pak­istan Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif could at­tend the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony of his coun­ter­part Naren­dra Modi, ap­par­ent pres­sure from hard­lin­ers forced the Is­lam­abad ad­min­is­tra­tion on the back foot and de­layed the fi­nal de­ci­sion on the mat­ter to an­other day.

Pak­istan govern­ment is likely to de­cide on Sharif ’s par­tic­i­pa­tion on Fri­day, of­fi­cials from the neigh­bour­ing coun­try told ET.

Pak­istan’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary es- tab­lish­ment will have the fi­nal say on the is­sue, said the of­fi­cials, who did not wish to be named. Al­though Sharif is hold­ing con­sul­ta­tions with both civil­ian and mil­i­tary lead­ers, the Pak­istan army has long dic­tated the coun­try’s In­dia pol­icy. Pak­istan For­eign Of­fice spokesper­son Tas­nim As­lam said in Is­lam­abad that a for­mal in­vi­ta­tion had been re­ceived but added that no de­ci­sion had yet been taken on Sharif ’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in Modi’s swear­ing-in cer­e­mony sched­uled for Mon­day.

As­lam said that it was a nor­mal prac­tice to nom­i­nate or de­pute some­one on be­half of the prime min­is­ter, in­di­cat­ing that Sharif might send an emis­sary in his place. Sharif could de­pute For­eign and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Sar­taz Aziz, a for­eign af­fairs ex­pert said. Pak­istan hopes that the new In­dian govern­ment will re­alise the im­por­tance of re­solv­ing bi­lat­eral is­sues, As­lam said, adding, “Pak­istan also hopes un­in­ter­rupted and un­in­ter­rupt­ible di­a­logue be­tween the two coun­tries for peace and de­vel­op­ment in South Asia.” The rul­ing Pak­istan Mus­lim League and sec­tions of the es­tab­lish­ment ap­pear to be at odds with Sharif ’s pro­posed visit. Mem­bers of Sharif's Pak­istan Mus­lim League-Nawaz ( PML-N) said the prime min­is­ter wanted to nor­malise ties with In­dia to pro­mote commercial and busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties. Ear­lier in the day, PML-N spokesper­son Sid­diqul Fa­rooq told ET from Pak­istan, “Mr Nawaz Sharif may at­tend the event to re­cip­ro­cate the ges­ture shown by the in­com­ing govern­ment of In­dia. If the PM vis­its Delhi he will tell Mr Modi to as­sure him of his co­op­er­a­tion to im­prove ties.” Pak­istani of­fi­cials hinted that the in­vi­ta­tion from In­dia was un­ex­pected and had left Sharif in a bind. “If Sharif skips the in­vi­ta­tion it will send a neg­a­tive mes­sage to In­dia and the world but the ac­cep­tance may draw ire from the hard­lin­ers and hawks,” said a Pak­istani of­fi­cial. On Wed­nes­day, For­eign Sec­re­tary Su­jatha Singh had in­vited all seven SAARC lead­ers to at­tend the swear­ing-in at the be­hest of the PM des­ig­nate. Be­sides Sri Lankan Pres­i­dent Mahinda Ra­japaksa and Afghanistan Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai,

Pak­istan is likely to de­cide on Sharif’s par­tic­i­pa­tion on Fri­day

Bhutanese Prime Min­is­ter Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay, Nepal Prime Min­is­ter Sushil Koirala and Mal­di­vian Pres­i­dent Ab­dulla Yameen Ab­dul Gay­oom are ex­pected to at­tend the cer­e­mony. Mau­ri­tius Prime Min­is­ter Navin Ram­goolam, who is of In­dian ori­gin, is also ex­pected to at­tend the event. Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, how­ever, will be in Ja­pan on an of­fi­cial visit and will de­pute Par­lia­ment Speaker Shirin Chowd­hury for at­tend­ing the cer­e­mony. Modi will hold maiden bi­lat­eral meet­ings with all vis­it­ing lead­ers on Tues­day, of­fi­cials told ET.

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