Prime Minister Narendra Modi&’s surprise visit to Pakistan was certainly a path-breaking move. There are no arguments over that, even by his detractors. But there remain two opinions – whether his “tea diplomacy” visit to Lahore will have the desired results in the long run. Or, will the new bilateral camaraderie last till the end of the SAARC Summit that Islamabad is due to host next November.
Modi&’s brief stopover at Lahore on Christmas Day, which he announced on Twitter that very morning, was a diplomatic coup of sorts – in one fell swoop helping to melt away the iciness that had crept into India-Pakistan ties.
Modi watchers, and baiters alike, were taken aback by the suddenness of the prime minister&’s announcement of a visit to Pakistan – becoming the first Indian prime minister to visit Pakistan in over a decade, and doing what former prime minister Manmohan Singh had always wanted to do during his premiership, but failed to do so. Modi in reality enacted what Manmohan Singh, who belongs to Gah in Pakistan&’s Punjab, had proposed for the close neighbours – having breakfast in India, lunch in Pakistan and dinner in Afghanistan.
The day of the visit coincidentally also happened to be the birthday of not only Prime Minister Sharif, but also that of Bharatiya Janata Party veteran and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the birth anniversary of Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Modi tweeted his greetings to Sharif and personally wished him, when the two met at Lahore.
Was the visit a planned one, or was it a sudden decision, will perhaps not be known. But some facts that are slowly coming out into the open regarding Modi&’s visit speak for themselves – that he presented Sharif a pink Rajasthani turban that the Pakistani premier wore on his granddaughter&’s wedding. He also gave Sharif&’s granddaughter Mehrun Nisa some wedding presents at Sharif&’s Jati Umrah residence.
The visit has generated a positive buzz, notwithstanding the contrary view by the opposition Congress that it was the outcome of prodding by the US, UK, France, Germany and Russia.
Similarities are being drawn between Modi&’s visit and that by Atal Behari Vajpayee to Lahore by bus in February 1999 and the signing of the Lahore Declaration. But that bonhomie disappeared soon with the Kargil war, and suspicion and bitterness crept back into ties
Can the peace initiative last? The fact that the current Pakistani National Security Advisor, Nasser Janua, is a former military man has triggered hope that Rawalpindi (the military headquarters) will be on board, and approving, of the peace moves between India and Pakistan this time.
Or, will it be as the naysayers are surmising – that the warmth in ties is destined to last just till the end of the SAARC Summit, during which India&’s presence is a must.
Let&’s hope the peace lasts, and the meeting of the foreign secretaries and NSAs leads to tangible results.