Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s India visit created much hype in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, 28 May-2014, Omer Farooq Khan/TNN: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to New Delhi has created much hype in Pakistan amid hopes that his meeting with Narendra Modi on Tuesday will go a long way in mending ties.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s India visit created much hype in Pakistan

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's India visit created much hype in Pakistan

Opposition Pakistan People’s Party leader Syed Khurshed Shah called the meeting a “good opportunity” to improve relations while asking politicians to avoid negative propaganda against Sharif’s meeting with his Indian counterpart. “We should think maturely for the larger interests of the country.”

Observers and defence analysts gave mixed reactions to the visit while the two-day live coverage of events from India seem to have changed perceptions of ordinary Pakistanis about Modi, widely believed to be a staunch opponent of Muslims.

The public had largely opposed Sharif’s visit when he received Modi’s invitation. But the warmth in Delhi and views of experts, mostly pacifists and optimists, on TV channels seem to have changed their opinions.

“The warm handshake with Pakistan’s Prime Minister, his dressing sense, his way of interaction with guests has changed my entire perception about the new Indian Prime Minister. I always considered him an enemy of Muslims,” said Zahid Ali, a taxi driver.

Meraj Hussain, who runs a bakery in Islamabad, hoped the visit would bridge the gulf between the two countries. “I grew up hearing stories of Bombay from my grandfather who was a non-commissioned government official there before the partition. I wish to see the same sub-continent in my lifetime. I believe the time has come to bury the past and to move forward.”

Several observers believe that unlike previous governments of secular parties, the BJP and PML-N enjoy absolute majorities in the parliaments of their respective countries and can deliver on complex issues.

“The worst times in Pakistan-India relations came under the rule of the Congress party, while they have always improved when non-Congress governments came to power,” said analyst Kamran Shafi.

He said secular parties constantly remain under pressure from hardliners and right-wing parties. “The right-wing parties like BJP and PML-N have enough space to maneuver and can easily adjust the rigid lines.”

Some analysts do not expect any worthwhile from Sharif’s visit and believe the excitement would end within few days.

“Despite the media hype, the two sides are not likely to sit down for normalisation of talks any time soon. The meeting touched only cosmetic issues like cricket while the real issues, like Kashmir and resumption of the composite dialogue were on the back burner,” said Zafar Hilali, a former diplomat.