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Nawaz takes time on invite, weighs results

Islamabad, May 23: Pakistan’s top leadership is still weighing its options on whether Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Monday.

The foreign office has recommended that Sharif should not let the opportunity go and should accept the invitation. “But the Prime Minister is not in a haste and is himself looking into all pros and cons before making a final decision,” a government official told The Telegraph.

“There are two opinions emerging — one in favour of the visit and the other against it. The Prime Minister has also consulted his close aides and top foreign ministry officials instead of playing to the gallery.”

Another official said the Prime Minister has got all the necessary inputs from the foreign ministry as well as his aides. “It is now most likely that he will himself make a decision.”

He said Pakistan wanted to be clear about the outcome of such a visit, as Sharif would not like to return home empty-handed. “The Prime Minister will be willing to go to New Delhi provided there is a positive outcome,” he said.

Analysts said there was no point in Sharif going to India only to attend the swearing-in.

“The Prime Minister should not go to India unless an exclusive meeting for him is arranged with Modi. It will be a waste of money and time to go to India merely for the oath-taking,” political and diplomatic analyst Hasan Askari said.

“The meeting should focus on overall relations with an outcome which is somewhat positive and friendly, satisfying each other’s concerns.”

Askari added that Sharif should undertake the visit if this was acceptable to India, else he should send his adviser.

Asked why it was taking so long to take a decision, he said: “This is Prime Minister Sharif’s style — he is very, very slow at making decisions.”

There could “be disagreement among policy-makers as to the response Pakistan should give”, Askari said, adding that Sharif could be personally willing but “his advisers would be restraining him”.

He said the Pakistan Muslim League (N) leadership wanted to improve relations with India but some persons who gave policy inputs were not too keen about the visit.

Sharif had dialled Modi —despite the anti-Pakistan rhetoric during electioneering —to congratulate him on the BJP’s landslide victory and invited him to visit Pakistan after assuming office.

Yesterday, the Pakistan foreign office had hoped that the new government “realises the importance of having peace in the region”.

Although Pakistan had cautiously received the news of the BJP win because of the party’s hardline stance, its official position has been that it will “comprehensively and meaningfully” engage with the incoming Modi government.