Islamabad, Dec 17 — The visit of Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, to Indian Punjab earlier this month will be meaningful only if it helps in the active revival of the peace process between India and Pakistan, a leading Pakistani daily said Tuesday.
“The sentiment was the right one as were the ideas explored,” the daily Dawn said in its editorial.
“Investment in the energy sector, allowing academics and students easy movement across the border, and anything that helps nudge the moribund India-Pakistan relationship forward should be welcomed,” it stated.
It said as the generation that witnessed the atrocities during Partition faded away, there was a feeling that the commonalities of language and culture between the people of the two Punjabs would over time “blur the troubled history of Punjab, and give way to greater interaction and opportunities that businessmen and others are already eying”.
“What is becoming problematic, though, is that little is being done to build on the ties that already exist between the two Punjabs – just as Islamabad and Delhi demur from actively taking the peace process between India and Pakistan forward,” the editorial said.
It said Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sending his own brother, who is also his closest confidante, with a message of goodwill showed good intentions.
However, it said, the peace process between the two South Asian would not be institutionalised if the prime minister kept relying on a small group of advisors that includes family members.
“Personalities, not issues, are inevitably in focus when the prime minister sends personal emissaries. The fanfare generated by each of these ‘resumptions’ must be followed by a widening of the dialogue for these ceremonies to be meaningful,” the editorial stated.
At the same time, it said that if Shahbaz Sharif could engage with India’s Punjab, then the ruling parties of the three other provinces in the country can also engage with neighbouring countries.
“If Shahbaz Sharif wants to moot people-to-people contact with his counterpart in Indian Punjab, then what is to stop the PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) government in KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) talking to Kabul about border affairs, the National Party-led government in Balochistan talking independently to Iran or the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) in Sindh reactivating old ties with Rajasthan?” it wondered.
It also termed as problematic the message that Shahbaz Sharif’s diplomacy will send to the other provinces – that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government in Pakistan “remains concerned first and foremost with the fortunes of Punjab”.
“Only if Shahbaz Sharif’s visit to Indian Punjab leads to the active revival of the peace process between the two countries will it be seen as a move by Islamabad to improve ties with Delhi. Otherwise it comes across as an exercise in PR,” it concluded.