Despite strained bilateral ties, Modi's condolence letter to Sharif is significant

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modis gesture of writing a letter to Pakistans former PM Nawaz Sharif condoling the death of his mother has shown that, in spite of Imran Khan government heaping hateful rhetoric on India, not all is lost when it comes to hoping for better bilateral relations between both the countries in future

Dec 19, 2020
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modis gesture of writing a letter to Pakistans former PM Nawaz Sharif condoling the death of his mother has shown that, in spite of Imran Khan government heaping hateful rhetoric on India, not all is lost when it comes to hoping for better bilateral relations between both the countries in future.

Sharif's mother Begum Shamim Akhtar, died on November 22. Modi's letter, written on November 27, was handed over to his daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif by India's Charge d'Affaires at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, Gaurav Ahluwalia.

"I am forwarding to you a letter from the Prime Minister of the Republic of India Narendra Modi addressed to the former Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan His Excellency Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. It is requested that the letter may be conveyed to His Excellency Nawaz Sharif," Ahluwalia wrote to Maryam, the Vice President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

In his letter, Modi recalled meeting Sharif's mother during his surprise visit to Lahore in 2015 while returning from Afghanistan.

"Her simplicity and warmth was indeed very touching. In this moment of profound grief, I pray to the Almighty to bestow strength upon you and your family to bear this irreparable loss," the Indian PM wrote to 'Mian Sahib' Sharif.

With Nawaz being in London since November 2019, Maryam has emerged as the face of anti-Imran Khan government jalsas organised by the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), ushering in a new era in Pakistani politics with her fierce attack on the 'kaptaan' of 'naya' Pakistan.

Having constantly ignored the consistent anti-India ranting by Imran Khan and his ministers, PM Modi reaching out to the Sharif family in their hour of grief shows that India has no qualms about engaging with some sane voices in Pakistan, especially its young and emerging leaders.

The bonhomie between the two leaders has withstood the test of time, festering dispute and the rhetorical venom spewed by the current Pakistani government.

In December 2015, Modi had visited Sharif's Raiwind residence -- the first visit of an Indian PM in more than a decade then and also probably the only instance of Prime Ministers of both the countries traveling together in a chopper -- to briefly attend the wedding celebrations of Maryam's daughter.

In May 2014, the three-time Pakistani PM had attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony and the Indian PM had gifted a shawl for his mother along with a compilation of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's poetry.

Maryam had then thanked Modi tweeting, "Thank u v much PM @narendramodi for the beautiful shawl for my grandmother. My father personally delivered it to her."

Sharif had sent a sari for Modi's mother as a return gift.

"Nawaz Sharif ji has sent a wonderful white Sari for my Mother. I am really grateful to him & will send it to my mother very soon," Modi had tweeted.

The political exile of Sharif, Imran Khan's appointment as PM and the military establishment once again running the show blatantly meant that the diplomatic ties between both the countries faced a downward spiral. However, with Maryam emerging on the political scene "as Nawaz's foot soldier" and tensions escalating in Pakistan, there's a strong possibility of the Sharifs and the Bhuttos forcing Khan to run for cover in 2021.

Sharif had recently, while addressing the PDM rallies via video link from London, accused the Pakistani security establishment for ousting him and bringing "puppet" Imran Khan into power.

"There's a state above the state in the country," the PML-N supremo had said openly.

He has also blamed "certain generals" in the Pakistani Army for dragging the country into the Kargil war with India and highlighted how Pakistani soldiers fought without food and weapons.

"The task of initiating the Kargil war, which witnessed the deaths of brave Pakistan soldiers, and disgraced Pakistan in front of the world, was not done by the army, but by a few generals. They threw not only the army but the country and community in the war in such a place that nothing could be achieved from it," Sharif said.

"Pervez Musharraf and his companion used the army for personal gains, and disgraced them," he had added.

It is in this changed scenario that PM Modi's gesture of writing a condolence letter may have a larger bearing.

"No other leader from the world expressed condolences with the Sharif family so openly. Modi is the only prime minister who came to limelight to express condolences with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif over the death of his mother," wrote The News International.

(IANS)

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