Nawaz reaches out for peace, PM Modi says security remains India’s priority

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Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif congratulated his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for taking over as prime minister for the third time but more significant was a felicitation message from the elder Sharif – former PM Nawaz Sharif who spoke about replacing hate with hope and seizing this “opportunity to shape the destiny of the two billion people of South Asia”.

Modi expressed appreciation for the message, saying the people of India have always stood for peace, security and progressive ideas.
“Advancing the well-being and security of our people shall always remain our priority,” said Modi, who did not invite Pakistan for the inauguration of his third term. Modi’s emphasis on security is in line with his government’s long held position that Pakistan’s continued support to cross- border terrorism is not conducive for dialogue.
Nawaz had just before the election outcome too reached out to India’s incoming government by reiterating his position that it was Pakistan which had violated his 1999 peace agreement with India in the form of the Lahore Declaration through its Kargil offensive. However, his remarks now constitute the first direct peace outreach to India since the coalition government in Pakistan took power earlier this year.

Nawaz said Modi’s success in elections reflects the confidence of the people in his leadership. “Let us replace hate with hope and seize the opportunity to shape the destiny of the two billion people of South Asia,” said Nawaz, who was recently re-elected president of his party, in a post on X.
Coming from the most powerful civilian leader in Pakistan, and one who is known to share a close rapport with Modi himself, the remarks are particularly significant. Modi thanked Shehbaz for his message.
It was under Modi and Nawaz in 2015 when then foreign minister Sushma Swaraj visited Islamabad – that the 2 sides had their last substantive bilateral engagement. That dialogue saw India and Pakistan relaunching the dialogue process under the new name of comprehensive bilateral dialogue. This was followed by Modi’s famous drop by, and only visit to Pakistan as PM, in Lahore on Nawaz’s birthday but that initiative also quickly fizzled out because of the Pathankot terror attack and later the Uri attack.
India has refused to have any diplomatic engagement ever since, except for the Indus Waters Treaty talks, and Pakistan itself decided to downgrade ties by recalling its high commissioner in 2019 after India revoked the special status of the erstwhile state of J&K.
The 2 countries will have an opportunity to attempt a reset in ties next month when both PMs travel to Kazakhstan for the SCO summit. However, it’s unlikely India will propose any meeting, given the understanding in the government that Pakistan is yet to act decisively against cross-border terrorism. Official sources also maintain Pakistan has to review its decision to downgrade ties before nursing any thought of forward movement in the relationship.

Nawaz’s call for working together also doesn’t sit well with Pakistan’s official position that India must reverse its “unilateral and illegal” measures in J&K for talks to take place. With the Supreme Court upholding the revocation of the special status, the Indian government believes Pakistan cannot have any say in how the internal affairs of J&K are run.

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