Almost a year ago to the day, and in the wake of his convincing victory in the Pakistan general elections, Nawaz Sharif stretched out an exceptional hand of friendship to India, pointing to neither Kashmir nor India having been an election issue in Pakistan, seeking a resumption of intensive dialogue with India, and demonstrating his earnest by inviting the Indian prime minister to his swearing in. The invitation was not taken up then or subsequently, largely because of pressure against engaging sincerely and in depth with a Pakistan that had not brought Hafiz Saeed to book, nor proceeded with the expeditious trial of those involved in 26/11, nor handed over Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon, besides being responsible for the beheading of Indian soldiers, the bludgeoning to death of Sarabjit Singh and more than one incursion into Kashmir across the Line of Control. None of that has changed. And yet, the very elements that most opposed even the courtesy invitation to lunch at 7, Race Course Road to outgoing Pakistan president, Asif Zardari, before he proceeded to perform ziarat at Ajmer Sharif, are now preening themselves at having pulled off the coup of getting the Pakistan PM to hop across to Rashtrapati Bhavan for what is being described as the “coronation” of the next Indian PM. They might have delusions about this being a repeat of the 1911 Durbar for the Laat Sahib with the feudatories all in attendance, but ours is a republic, not a monarchy, and the seven heads of government who have come are not salaam-ing maharajahs.
What then is the import of the visit? Has Pakistan changed its spots? Or has the Sangh Parivar undergone a lobotomy? I still remember with horror the twisted fury on the face of Arun Shourie, spokesman for the BJP in the Rajya Sabha on the morrow of 26/11, as he railed against the Pakistanis that we should not seek a tooth for a tooth but the entire jaw for a tooth in any Pakistani terrorist attack. Has that fury abated?
For Nawaz Sharif to accept the invitation is no more than consistency with the stand he has always taken: that any contact with India is welcome and that dialogue with India is a must. But without preconditions — that is fundamental. The Sangh Parivar, on the other hand, has thus far insisted that without Pakistan making amends for past outrages and giving iron-clad guarantees of no repeats, how can India engage with this monster to our west? Is, therefore, the invitation to Nawaz Sharif continued…