Sharif’s return bodes well for bilateral ties, say Indian analysts

New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) Nawaz Sharif’s expected return to power in Pakistan bodes well for the future of bilateral relations as his track record with India has been encouraging, former diplomats and analysts have said, but noted that the PML-N leader faces stiff domestic challenges.

Former foreign secretary Salman Haider said Sharif was an experienced leader who has had “good interaction” with his counterparts in India while he was the prime minister.

“(His) track record is encouraging. There is prospect of ties improving,” Haider told IANS.

He said transition of power in Pakistan from one civilian government to other was a positive development. “We should congratulate Pakistan for elections of this sort. Their history is against it. India has always encouraged democratic movements in the neighbourhood,” he said.

Haider said the army in Pakistan has been restrained during election campaign and had not tried to impose its candidates. “It has been less active in political field for the last few years. That is again a good sign,” he stated.

Sharif was Sunday poised to return to power in Pakistan after a 14-year hiatus.

Former foreign secretary Shashank (one name) said Sharif’s coming to power should be good for India-Pakistan relations. He said Sharif’s party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz had announed before the elections that it will work for improving relations with India.

Shashank said India and Pakistan had not been able to realise the potential of their relations.

“We hope the army and political leadership will work better and not tug at each other so that if one sides moves closer to India other sides does not move away,” he said.

He said it was significant that Sharif hails from Punjab which sends a large number of people to the army and hence, by implication, a significant section of the Pakistan Army could be loyal to Sharif.

Shashank also hoped that the new government in Pakistan will address India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism and bring all forms of terror under control. “Hope terrorism will be brought under control,” he said.

Shashank said Afghanistan should not be destablised after withdrawal of NATO troops from the country in 2014 and a new government in Pakistan will have an important regional role to play in what is called the volatile Af-Pak region.

G. Parthasarathy, former Indian envoy to Pakistan, said much would depend on what Sharif’s relations are with the military as well as how he is going to tackle the Taliban.

“For him, reviving the economy is going to be the biggest challenge. For India, one can certainly be happy that it is Nawaz Sharif who has won and not Imran Khan,” Parthasarathy told IANS.

Strategic analyst C. Uday Bhaskar, Distinguished Fellow at the Society for Policy Studies, said tension between the civilian administration, especially with a strong prime minister, and the military could prove a domestic challenge.

Sharif’s party had “tacit understanding” with the Taliban and its cadres did not attack PML-N candidates during the campaign.

How he will deal with them after forming government will prove to be a major domestic challenge,” Bhaskar said.

He said new Pakistan government’s relations with India will be tempered by how Sharif tackles elements of LeT (Lashkar-e-

Taiba) and JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammad) which are inimical to India and which the Pakistan army supports.

Sharif has served as Pakistan’s prime minister for two non-consecutive terms from November 1990 to July 1993 and from February 1997 to October 1999. However, his both governments were dismissed before completing their constitutional term. He was jailed by former president Pervez Musharraf and then sent to exile in Saudi Arabia.

Ironically, Musharraf is now under house arrest in Pakistan.

— Indo-Asian News Service


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