By Sachin Parashar
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit a home run by inviting Saarc leaders for his swearing-in and if more evidence were required to prove it, it has come from none other than Modi’s Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
Setting aside speculation in Pakistan that he wasn’t entirely pleased with his India visit, Sharif has written to Modi saying, about their May 27 meeting, “I must say that I have returned much satisfied with our meaningful exchange of thoughts on matters of bilateral and regional interest.” His letter was delivered to Modi’s office by the Pakistan high commission.
Last week, Pakistan media quoted unnamed leaders in Sharif’s party, PML(N), to say that the PM was “not too happy” with the meeting even though officially Islamabad has maintained that it was “better than expected”. According to a newspaper report, India was thought to have focused too much on terrorism – at the expense of other issues Islamabad considered more relevant.
While Sharif did say in his letter that the two sides should work on “unsettled” matters, his first communication to Modi seemed to dispel the notion that he was having second thoughts about the dialogue during which the two leaders also had a separate 10-minute one-on-one.
“I look forward to working with you in harmony on all unsettled matters for the benefit of both nations. Hope that our endeavors will lay the foundation of a much brighter future,” Sharif said in the letter which is being looked upon very favourably by India.
Sharif also echoed Modi’s sentiment that the two countries needed to work together to successfully take care of their poor.
“It is the millions living in poverty in both countries who deserve our foremost attention. I firmly believe that in our concerted efforts lies the welfare and prosperity of our two nations.”
Sharif had seemed more optimistic even immediately after the meeting as he declared in his statement that the foreign secretaries would meet soon. Government officials said Pakistan is working actively to propose dates for a meeting between the foreign secretaries.
India remains more guarded with officials saying that the top diplomats would “remain in touch”. Even though it is convinced that Sharif means well, India wants to see some movement on the Mumbai terror trial before giving any impression that the two sides are moving towards resumption of the dialogue process.
Sharif had sent a sari and a shawl for Modi’s mother and an ethnic suit for Modi. He and the Indian PM are likely to meet on the sidelines of UN General Assembly in New York in September. For that to happen, though, the foreign secretaries may need to meet to lay the groundwork for a more substantive engagement between the PMs.