Following a week of tumultuous political manoeuvring and unprecedented political crisis, Shehbaz Sharif, younger brother of three times ex-premier Nawaz Sharif took office in Pakistan as Prime Minister.
Proven a capable administrator during his tenure as the Chief Minister of Punjab province, Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif extended a hand of friendship albeit keeping the Kashmir issue at the core. “We desire good relations with India but there cannot be lasting peace till the equitable resolution of the Kashmir issue,” Shehbaz Sharif said.
The new Prime Minister said along expected lines: “Come, let us decide the Kashmir issue according to UN resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people and end poverty on both sides and create jobs, and bring progress and prosperity.”
Shehbaz Sharif spent more time talking about India in his address with reference to foreign policy in his first speech than any other country. Apart from China and US, the European Union, the UK, Afghanistan, Turkey, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Iran, were the other countries that were mentioned in his speech.
The new Prime Minister of Pakistan urged allow the two sides to focus on shared problems such as poverty, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi linked any engagement to the elimination of terror.
Becoming the first world leader to congratulate Sharif, within minutes of his swearing-in, Indian PM Modi had earlier congratulated Sharif on his election and linked any engagement with Pakistan to an environment free of terrorism. “India desires peace and stability in a region free of terror so that we can focus on our development challenges and ensure the well-being and prosperity of our people,” Narendra Modi tweeted.
Shehbaz Sharif had some advice for his Indian counterpart. “I would give Prime Minister Modi this advice that you should understand about the poverty, unemployment [and] sickness on both sides. People don’t have medicines, education, trade or jobs. Why do we want to cause harm to ourselves and the coming generations?”
Since the 2008 Mumbai attacks by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, there is no formal dialogue between India and Pakistan. After scrapping the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic relations with India.
The Pulwama suicide attack, believed to be the handiwork of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the surgical strike by India thereafter also were not conducive to warm relations between the two neighbours.
Sharif accused the previous government of Imran Khan’s government of doing little to respond to the “human rights violations” in Kashmir. “We will raise our voice for Kashmiri brothers and sisters at every forum and undertake diplomatic efforts. We will offer diplomatic and moral support, this is our right, they are our brothers,” he said.