Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif's decision to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi is a step in the right direction to give peace a chance, media here said today.
By agreeing to accept India's invitation, Sharif and all those who matter have thankfully taken a huge step in what appears to be a marathon strewn with multiple, possibly perilous pitfalls. The take-off, however, appears to be in the right direction, The Express Tribune said in an article.
A final decision from Sharif came five days after India sent an official invitation on May 21, giving the Prime Minister here enough time to consult his aides, cabinet members and the Foreign Office, The News International said in its report.
The decision was taken after a meeting between Sharif's troubleshooter Shahbaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif in Lahore so that all stakeholders were on board.
"Luckily, hawks like Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar were kept at arm's length," it said.
Sharif was keen that instead of just crossing over the eastern border for a photo-op, an opportunity should be there for a bilateral meeting with the prime minister-designate to make a fresh beginning, the newspaper said.
Sharif is scheduled to have his maiden bilateral meeting with Modi on Tuesday. The Prime Minister will also call on President Pranab Mukherjee before returning home.
Sharif's aides have been cautioning that no big announcements are expected after the meeting.
However, the paper noted that when Sharif lands in New Delhi, his hands will be strengthened as he will have the backing of not only the people of Pakistan, but all the major political parties and the security establishment which controls ties with India.
"Except for the fringe and ignorable elements outside the democratic process, like the Punjabi jihadis, especially the Jamaat-ud-Dawa's Hafiz Saeed who opposes the visit, everyone has rooted for Sharif to go into a meeting with Modi," it said.
Also important for Sharif would be to get a commitment from Modi, known to think outside the box, that now was the time to restart the composite dialogue so that a series of uninterrupted talks could give a boost to bilateral relations, the paper said.
The News International noted that Sharif has already gone on record to say that he will enter into a fresh trade agreement with India once a new government was in place.
The Express Tribune said, "History is certainly on the side of the Prime Ministers of the two countries that have remained locked in an acrimonious helter-skelter relationship, often marred or dogged by two fundamental issues: Kashmir and terrorism."
"Modi is unbound in the parliament by virtue of his absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, facilitated by the huge Indian industrial complex and business conglomerates. He rode to power on the promise of economic revival, employment generation and his party apparently vies for a peaceful neighbourhood, and hence the invitation to Nawaz," it said.
Sharif, too, enjoys an historic backing from all major political parties in his endevour for good relations with India.
"One would assume that the GHQ -- military headquarters of Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi -- too, sees promise and purpose in normalisation with India. And, of course, like Modi, the Sharifs, too, are wedded to the idea of economy being central to the survival of a country," it said.
Both Modi and Sharif have an historic opportunity to retune bilateral relations, it added.