Islamabad, July 8 (IANS) The onus is on the Indian leadership to demonstrate its commitment to far-reaching changes in the Pakistan-India relationship, said a leading daily Monday.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's avowed intention to move forward on improving ties with India has manifested itself in the meeting between newly appointed Track-II point man, Shaharyar Khan, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said an editorial in the Dawn.
"Early days yet these may be, but it is a good sign that Sharif seems both committed and willing to take up where he left off in 1999. Of course, as the Pakistani prime minister and Khan will be aware, times have also changed since the last time the PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) supremo attempted a strategic breakthrough with India."
The daily noted that while Sharif has political capital to spend after his strong showing in the recent general elections, Manmohan Singh has "no such luxury".
"Hobbled by various crises and scandals at home and seemingly on the ropes against their BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) rivals, the Congress-led government in India has little room to manoeuvre ahead of next year's elections," it said.
"Second, in the post-Mumbai era, the Indian government will still want some kind of gesture from Pakistan to help put that traumatic episode behind it. In essence, that has come down to either expediting the trial of suspects linked to the Mumbai attacks or muzzling the anti-India jihadi leadership that roams Pakistan freely," it said.
The editorial wondered how much progress will be possible in that fraught environment is the question at the moment and "real diplomacy and statesmanship will be needed to overcome the tension".
The daily went on to say that the "Pakistani establishment's reluctance and recalcitrance notwithstanding, particularly with the post-2014 Afghan scenario at a critical stage of being shaped, there is also an onus on the Indian leadership to demonstrate its commitment to far-reaching changes in the Pak-India relationship".
"...Singh has declined repeated invitations to visit Pakistan in recent years; a visit that would have gone a long way in improving at least the optics of the relationship."
It said that if a visit is still not feasible for the Indian prime minister, "perhaps his team handling relations with the Sharif government should seek to establish a dialogue process that factors in the possibility of a change in government in India next year".
"...the Congress-led government has options to ensure the sustainability and continuity of a dialogue with the Sharif government. As ever, statesmanship is the necessary ingredient, one lacking for far too long on both sides," the editorial added.