India has made its position rather clear on Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs visit to Pakistan. Despite repeated invitations and reminders from the Pakistani side,New Delhi has said that such a visit is linked to Pakistan punishing the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
While that position may be partly dictated by Singhs domestic political compulsions,there is a similar compelling discourse emerging from Islamabad one which sees opportunity in Singhs visit at a time when the current regime in Pakistan is set to become the first democratically-elected government to complete its full term in the history of Pakistan.
In fact,the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party has left no stone unturned in its bid to make it to the finishing line,even if it meant losing its previous Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani at the legal altar rather than escalating matters with an assertive Supreme Court.
Pakistan is facing elections early next year and the last few months are crucial for the PPP as its leadership is still not out of the woods on the legal front. Yet,the anticipatory euphoria in the corridors of Islamabad is a telling sign of how much this means to the Pakistan Peoples Party the first party to live this moment in the countrys 65-year troubled relationship with democracy.
If PM Singh chooses to visit,it will be seen as a significant recognition of the difficult democratic transition in Pakistan. Its President Asif Ali Zardari will look to leverage the moment as the worlds largest democracy meeting an emerging democracy.
As it stands,the subtext of the message from Islamabad is clear that Indias best chance at obtaining some results from the 26/11 trial is with a democratically-elected government in power since the legal battle is expected to continue for more than just a few days. In fact,this is what comes through when Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar asks New Delhi to be unemotional about 26/11. This also explains External Affairs Minister S M Krishnas visit to Lahore to meet leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).
Regardless of what spin doctors on either side say,the bottomline is clear that its going to be New Delhis call,more specifically the PMs call,to set a date for the visit as Pakistan is billing the trip quite differently. The question is,how much weight will India give this narrative of democracy from Pakistan.