Ending the suspense, Pakistan on Saturday confirmed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will attend Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony on May 26.
Sharif will arrive in Delhi on Monday, accompanied by his Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant Tariq Fatemi and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry among others.
The day after the swearing-in, Modi will hold separate bilateral meetings with Sharif and other visiting heads of the SAARC countries. In a positive gesture, Islamabad also conveyed to New Delhi that about 150 Indian prisoners lodged in Pakistan’s jails will be freed on May 26.
“According to the programme received from India, the Prime Minister will have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi on the morning of May 27. The Prime Minister would also call on the President of India. The Prime Minister would return to Pakistan in the afternoon of May 27, 2014,” said a statement released by the Pakistan Foreign Office.
The announcement on Saturday came after two days of deliberations within Pakistan’s establishment — political, military and bureaucracy. Significantly, Sharif’s brother and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif met Pakistan Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif for about half-an-hour on Friday night and conveyed to him the importance of the visit to India, PML-N sources told PTI in Islamabad.
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As reported by The Indian Express on Saturday, the diplomatic advice rendered to Sharif — by the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi and the foreign office in Islamabad — recommended that he should undertake the visit for the sake of improving bilateral relations.
Seeming to set the tone for his visit, Sharif’s daughter, Maryam, tweeted on Saturday, “Aggression is easy to start but difficult to end… Brutality & force are tools of the immoral… #pakindiarelations. Leaders are not captives of past”. To a question on Kashmir, she tweeted, “Dialogue, not force, is the answer. As I said, aggression breeds aggression.”
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley signalled that the gathering of these foreign leaders should not be seen through the “prism of bilateral issues”. “The invitation to all leaders of SAARC nations to be present at the ceremony is to showcase Indian democracy and its strength to the world at large. It is a democracy event. It should not be viewed through the prism of bilateral issues between countries. While celebrating the success of India’s democracy, the fact that our neighbours, through their leaders, will be represented re-affirms India’s faith in both democracy and greater integration of the region,” he said.
With Sharif’s confirmation, MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin noted that all the leaders of SAARC countries and Mauritius have confirmed their participation. While Bangladesh Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhary and Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay will be arriving on Sunday, the others are expected on Monday, hours before the ceremony.