Sharif to invite Manmohan for swearing-in

Sharif to invite Manmohan for swearing-in

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who is set to form Pakistan's new government after an emphatic win, said on Monday he would be "very happy" to invite Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his swearing-in for a record third term as premier.

“I will be very happy to extend that invitation. If they will come, it will be a great pleasure for me and for Pakistan,” Sharif said during an interaction with a group of foreign journalists at his home in Lahore.

Sharif was responding to a question if he would invite Singh to his swearing-in ceremony.
When again asked if he intended to invite Singh, Sharif replied: “I had a call from him (Singh) on Sunday. We had a long chat on the phone and then he extended an invitation to me and I extended an invitation to him. He originally belongs to a district in Pakistan.”
Singh's ancestral hometown is Gah in the Punjab province of Pakistan.

He added: “We will be very happy to invite him, whether he will come or not is a different issue but I hope that he will visit Pakistan soon.”

Sharif said it would be an honour if Singh was present at the swearing-in. He further said he hoped to meet the Indian Prime Minister as soon as possible as he was keen on forging good relations between the two countries.

The PML-N chief had earlier said he is keen on resuming the India-Pakistan peace process that was interrupted in 1999 by then army chief Pervez Musharraf, who ousted Sharif's government in a military coup.

“We’ll pick the threads where we left. We want to move toward better relations with India, to resolve the remaining issues through peaceful means, including that of Kashmir,” Sharif said.
In an unusually quick response even as counting of votes was underway in Pakistan, Singh conveyed India’s desire to work with him to chart a new course in bilateral relations.

In a letter in which he addressed Sharif as "Dear Mian Saheb", Singh said: “I look forward to working with you and your government to chart a new course and pursue a new destiny in the relations between our countries. I would also like to extend an invitation to you to visit India at a mutually convenient time.”

India, however, on Monday was cautious in reacting to Sharif’s statement that he would extend an invitation to Singh to travel to Islamabad to attend the ceremony in which he would take oath as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Official sources in New Delhi said that the Government had seen media reports quoting Sharif, but had not yet received any “specific proposal”.

During his last tenure as the Prime Minister, Sharif had joined his then counterpart A B Vajpayee to make a significant attempt to mend the ties between India and Pakistan. Vajpayee had traveled on a bus from Delhi to Lahore – marking the launch of the passenger transport service between the two cities – for a summit with Sharif.

Lahore declaration

The Lahore Declaration issued after the summit had raised a new hope for peace between the two neighbours.

The hope, however, was belied within a few months with Pakistani Army intruding into Indian territory in Kargil sector of Jammu and Kashmir, resulting in a major conflict. 
While Singh was quick to congratulate Sharif on his win on Sunday, sources said that New Delhi would have to be very cautious in its reactions to the proposal that the PML-N leader appeared to have made during his interactions with journalists in New Delhi.

Sources said that given the domestic political situation and the recent setbacks in bilateral ties – like skirmishes between the two armies along the Line of Control and killing of Sarabjit Singh and Sanaullah Ranjay in Pakistan and India – Singh might find it difficult to take a dramatic move, like traveling to Islamabad to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Sharif.

PM criticised

The opposition BJP on Monday criticised Prime Minister for hastily inviting Sharif to India.
“The Prime Minister has been in too much of a haste to invite Mr Nawaz Sharif. In fact, we should have waited to see what changes come about in Pakistan's attitude towards India and if there were some positive signs, surely he would have invited him,” said BJP vice president Balbir Punj.

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