The Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday clarified that no invitation had been received for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Nawaz Sharif as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan.
“There is no specific proposal on the table of a specific request for a specific occasion,” said MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
He pointed out that Manmohan had called up Sharif on Sunday evening, during which he extended an invitation to the would-be PM of Pakistan to visit India.
“During the course of that conversation, Sharif also extended a similar invitation to the Prime Minister,” he said. “Other than that, no other specific proposals has been received or even heard of except through media,” he added. On Monday, Sharif had told reporters in answer to a specific query that he would be “very happy” to have Singh attend his oath-taking ceremony.
Despite renewed hype over warming of ties, South Block is also more cautious about the feel-good factor being generated around the ties of the two neighbours.
The officilas pointed out that so far India has graded Islamabad’s seriousness about improving ties on taking strict action against masterminds of the Mumbai attacks, including putting restrictions on Jamaat-ud-Dawa supremo Hafez Saeed.
It remains to be seen if Sharif will have the flexibility to show any results on the Mumbai attacks trial, in the face of vested interests from several quarters in the military establishment.
Though faced with more intractable domestic problems, Sharif may go for a grand gesture in the early part of his regime, especially as he had been an advocate of closer business ties with India. The stalled Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status for India could finally get a fresh lease of life.
Meanwhile, some of the key Pakistan hands in the Indian establishment will see some changes in the next couple of months. Indian envoy to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal is on an extension till June, after his term was increased for another two months to tide over the elections. He will be replaced by the current Indian ambassador to Singapore, T C A Raghavan.
The head of the Pakistan-Afghanistsan-Iran desk in the MEA is expected to fall vacant, once Additional Secretary Y K Sinha moves to Sri Lanka next month.