Government media men tried to make a success out of Nawaz Sharif’s trip to Washington last year, but it didn’t take long for everyone to realise it was a failure. Similarly, the Prime Minister’s recent trip to attend the swearing-in ceremony of his new Indian counterpart Narendra Modi was quickly greeted with warm felicitations from corners of the media, but even these lacked enthusiasm almost as much as the Prime Minister’s delivery of his prepared remarks.
Once again, the PM was reduced to reading from an old script, giving pleasant sounding words about mutual interest and economic development. But as with his scripted remarks in Washington, the remarks fell flat as even the orator himself seemed hard pressed to believe they were anything but ceremonial.
The scripted remarks weren’t the only familiar feature in this drama, though. Just as the American President responded to the PM with uncomfortable questions about Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and cross-border militant activity, the international media reported that Modi also ‘conveyed that Pakistan must abide by its commitment to prevent its territory and territory under its control from being used for terrorism’ – a demand that the Prime Minister has been hearing not only from America and India, but our ‘all-weather friend’ China as well.
It is worthwhile to remain optimistic that Nawaz can manage to improve relations with his new Indian counterpart and to begin to heal the decades-old bitterness that is so costly to both our countries. However, we should keep our feet firmly planted on the ground so that our heads are not lost in the clouds. Prepared statements given at high level meetings are like sweetmeats that are pleasurable but also fleeting. To build healthy relations, we must be willing to get to the meat of the matters.