News / Asia

India Looks for Easier Relations Under Sharif

Pakistan's incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif speaks to journalists at his farm house in Raiwind on the outskirts of Lahore, May 13, 2013.
Pakistan's incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif speaks to journalists at his farm house in Raiwind on the outskirts of Lahore, May 13, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
It was 14 years ago when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister in Islamabad that Pakistan and India initiated the process of normalizing their ties. With the veteran leader's party once again set to gain a legislative majority in Pakistan, hopes are high in India that efforts to ease the decades-long animosity between the two rival nations will get a major boost.
As election results emerged indicating a victory for Nawaz Sharif's political party, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh extended an invitation to him to visit India, saying he hopes to chart a new course for their relationship.
The Indian prime minister had reason to reach out to the man set to emerge as Pakistan’s next civilian leader - Sharif has emphasized that he intends to pick up the remnants of a peace process he began with India in 1999.  
In the intervening years, efforts by the two countries to move past their decades-long animosity have had their setbacks.
But Indian analysts are confident that under Sharif’s stewardship, things will get better. Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary in New Delhi, calls the former prime minister the “best bet for India”.   
“He is somebody with whom we have a degree of comfort because India has dealt with him, has had good results with negotiations when he was in power, so it is better to deal with him than deal with somebody new and inexperienced. The election victory is quite convincing, therefore he will have much more confidence in speaking for Pakistan when he negotiates with India,” Mansingh said.
Indian officials are hoping for some positive signals in the coming months. For a start, New Delhi wants Pakistan to boost bilateral economic ties by ushering in a liberalized trading regime. Pakistan has not yet implemented a commitment to give India Most Favored Nation trading status -- a move that many hope will now happen.
But while economic ties may get a push, improving diplomatic relations could be far more challenging.   
Uday Bhaskar, a strategic affairs analyst, cautions that Sharif’s ability to develop better ties with India will be contingent on his relationship with the military, which he says still makes key strategic decisions for the country.   
“Three issues that concern India -- Kashmir, the support to groups that are engaged in terror activities against India, and the management of nuclear weapons and missiles -- all three of these are outside of the purview of the civilian leadership of Pakistan. So unless he is able to bring about a certain rearrangement in the distribution of power in Pakistan and establish his own primacy, I think we should wait and watch,” Bhaskar stated. 
India and Pakistan have fought three wars and come close to a fourth. Earlier this year, a war of words erupted between them as tensions spiked between their militaries along the disputed Kashmir border.    
But there is some optimism that this time around, the Pakistani military may not thwart peace overtures with India.  
Bharat Karnad at New Delhi’s independent Center for Policy Research said the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani is not likely to be a stumbling block.  
“I think General Kayani has given ample evidence that he means to redirect his military’s efforts towards internally containing terrorist outfits and eliminating terrorism. He has made that his top priority. He is being very realistic and I think he needs to be commended for it. So this will dovetail with Nawaz Sharif’s political intent to have a rapproachement with India,” said Karnad.
In India, meanwhile, support for strengthening peace with Pakistan cuts across the political spectrum. That is important because New Delhi too heads into elections next year and could see a change in leadership.
Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader Prakash Javedkar recalls that the 1999 peace process with Nawaz Sharif began under a BJP-led government in New Delhi. He said he will be happy if that process is taken forward. He expressed happiness that "democracy has flourished" in Pakistan. A strong, democratic government in Pakistan will be good for both countries, Javedkar said.  
That is the hope of many in India. A shared culture has facilitated linkages between their citizens since Nawaz Sharif was last in power, but their political divide has not been easy to bridge.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Tender Heart
May 13, 2013 11:23 AM
Please take a moment to help a great nonprofit doing work in India to send children to school.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs