Pakistan media on Wednesday appeared skeptical about the outcome of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India and his first meeting with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, who cleverly bought himself goodwill internationally, but he did so in a way that conceded nothing.
In an editorial titled ‘Pak-India: more of the same?’, the Dawn newspaper said sticking to his pre-election script of focusing on building closer economic ties while downplaying the big, historical security issues, Sharif tried his best to sustain the feel-good factor of his presence in Delhi.
“Yet, as snippets from the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sharif were leaked to the Indian media and then India’s own diplomats chose to take a tough line in public, it became clear — as if more clarity were needed — just how difficult it will continue to be to bridge the gap between India’s almost exclusive focus on terrorism and Pakistan’s wanting to expand talks to encompass many ofthe long-standing issues between the two sides,” it said.
The paper said that as ever, there are tough questions to be asked about the intentions and/or capacity of both sides to deliver on their rhetoric of peace.
“Is Modi really interested in moving forward on normalisation of ties with Pakistan?,” it asked.
The paper said: “Modi has cleverly bought himself goodwill internationally by hosting Sharif, but did so in a way that really conceded nothing.”
“The invitation itself was one to SAARC leaders and the selective leaks to the media after the prime ministerial meeting yesterday suggested that Modi stuck to a hawkish script instead of a more peaceable one,” the paper said.
On the Pakistani side, Sharif’s mantra of business, trade and economy may be music to some ears, but it is in the security arena that many of the key decisions will need to be taken — and the battle for control fought.
In its editorial titled ‘Always On The Brink’, the Nation said Sharif’s visit to Delhi was “a smart political move.”
Recalling the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s peace journey to Lahore 15 years ago, the paper said if any real progress is to be made, it must move beyond symbolism.
“Cleverly, Modi has legitimised a very controversial election by having SAARC leaders, especially the Pakistani PM, in attendance at his swearing-in. Now, the way Pakistan understands diplomatic theatrics must change.
“We must focus on formulating policy that can withstand the echoes and shockwaves of history and the routine glitches of our complex, and mutual, political state,” the paper said.
In a carefully worded editorial titled ‘A new page’, The News said it would have been unrealistic to expect any substantive breakthroughs during Sharif’s visit to India.
The meeting between Nawaz and Modi hinted both at the prospects for peace and the likelihood of trouble in the months ahead as Nawaz focused, as he always has, on engagement but Modi spoke mostly of terrorism, particularly the Mumbai attacks of 2008, the paper said.
“The way to work through these troubles, as Nawaz well understands, is by engaging in other issues first and broaching matters of disagreement once ties have improved,” it said.
It said that Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh was more hopeful in her press briefing.
In his own brief remarks to the press, Nawaz once again sung the song of peace. That the word “peace” can even be uttered with the “hardline” Modi in power is in itself a testament to the surprising developments of the past few days.
“If Modi does indeed visit Pakistan, which could be a very distant prospect, we can also expect a lot of hostility stemming from his actions during the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat,” the paper said.
“The commitment of the military to peace with India is also in question,” it added.
“The two leaders have done what no one expected but the chances of reverting back to script still remain high.”