Birthday Diplomacy and Terrorism

January 7, 2016 OPINION/NEWS


Sattar Rind

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Pakistan was surprising for the people of both countries.

On returning to Delhi from Kabul, he touched down in Lahore to meet his counterpart of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif who warmly welcomed and took him to his personal house Jati Amrou, a reasonable distance from Lahore – the capital city of Punjab.

The media houses of both countries were almost unaware of any news of this visit until Modi landed at Lahore, as reported. Besides, it is being claimed that officials of both countries were also in the dark, aside from a few taken in confidence it is believed.

It was also assumed that neither visit was planned nor that the Prime Minister of Pakistan was expecting Narendra Modi. But when Indian Prime Minster took off from Kabul Airport he informed Nawaz Sharif of his visit to him, the Indian PM claiming after reaching Delhi that he made his mind up to visit Lahore, to offer the Prime Minster of Pakistan a ‘happy birthday’ wish personally.

This is not believed by foreign affairs experts and diplomatic professionals of both countries, obviously.

Therefore analysis started on this surprising birthday visit vigorously since December 25th of last year, yet no conclusion has been reached as it was taken very much as positive whoever desired the good relationship between two neighbouring rival countries since 1947.

There were rumours floating around which one was more important and to some extent was being taken as negative or for personal gain that Indian businessmen pressuring Narendra Modi on the Indian side and from the Pakistani, no one but the older son of the PM, Mr Hussein Sharif, demanding from his father that he may ensure a smooth relationship between the two countries – India and Pakistan.

If this was even true then it is not harmful and not negative in its core, but politically would not be feasible to Nawaz Sharif.

On the oath taking ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Modi, all South Asian countries’ dignitaries were available for he occasion and from Pakistan Nawaz Sharif was there to attend the same. On the second day of the oath taking ceremony Nawaz Sharif met with a few Indian businessmen on behalf of his son Hussein Sharif. This created a great deal of hue and cry in Pakistan, the PM being unable to defend it. If this is the reason for this surprising happy birthday diplomacy then Nawaz Sharif has to face political consequences now and in future.

It was therefore ruled that it could not be a pressurising force. Sharif knows very well that it would politically be losing points for him, many stakeholders in Pakistan not letting him do personal business on behalf of both countries, as each have a long history of arguing.

The second thought was that it was more rational to think that both countries decided through their own will to guarantee a smooth relationship to ensure peace in this region. Besides it was possible that friends of both countries pressurised them to develop a reasonable link as they are doing nothing but losing many mutual trade opportunities.

Even then the question was there of a splendid surprise visit for Narendra Modi for the coordinal relationship of both countries, though it is very much needed and both countries should have a good relationship, the public of both for a long time having wished to visit each other in a peaceful atmosphere.

However since the Indian Prime Minister’s visit there has been much speculation, everyone seemingly attempting to get to the point of rapid development through a long sequence of meetings and agendas, not entirely different from what had been announced in a joint press conference by the Indian Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Sartaj Aziz on the occasion of the Heart of Asia fifth Istanbul ministerial meeting at Islamabad, on 9-10 December.

In this surprising meeting it was announced that the foreign secretaries of both countries would meet between 15-17 January in Islamabad and that it would be a more comprehensive dialogue between the secretary levels. Even Prime Minster Modi has given an indication that such a dialogue between Delhi and Islamabad might be held at the earliest to decide the agenda for the forthcoming meeting.

The initial focus of the talks would be the reduction of tension and maintenance of calm on the Line of Control (LoC) to provide relief to people living across the LoC as announced. Then a sequence of dialogue would cover the Jammu and Kashmir issue, a people to people exchange and religion tourism.

All of these issues need a great deal of attention from both country heads, at least for the minimum of a smooth relationship. However, when this was happening and announcements were appearing in newspapers and media channels, no one who knows the history of talks between the two was able to claim that these would be held in a smooth way, nor has anyone thought of an incident that could sabotage them.

It is very unfortunate that on the 3rd January a terrorist attack on the Indian Air Force Base Pathankot was made. No announcement has appeared though stating that the talks have been cancelled, but it seems very difficult they may go on.

These days the younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Chief Minister of Punjab was expected to visit India and meet with the PM, but a question mark is there on the expected visit.

As well as this at the end of March, Mr Modi and Nawaz Sharif are expected to meet in the US as they plan to visit on the invitation of the US president for the nuclear security summit. But this all needs to be reconfirmed.

However it looks as though those talks will not go ahead. Perhaps there are more powerful forces in both countries that are not ready to see any positive development between the two countries. Thus we can only have a new etymology in the political and diplomatic field as ‘happy birthday diplomacy’ and wait to see when people of both neighboring countries visit each other freely.   








Sattar Rind

Sattar Rind lives in Sindh, Pakistan. and is an Author with four books to his credit. three poetry and one on politics. As a Columnist he has written for a number of newspapers and magazines since 1991. Sattar can be contacted at the following email address: [email protected]


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