Modi & Sharif: The two PMs aiming to leave a legacy behind

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For most of the period post Independence in 1947, India and Pakistan have seen more downs than ups.

The last 68 years have been marked by a constant low punctuated by some direct wars and proxy warfare. Whenever efforts have been made to revive peace between the two neighbours, some disruptions surfaced (in 1999 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister of India or in 2008, when Manmohan Singh was at the helm) to put the entire exercise in a jeopardy.

Modi, Sharif aiming to leave a legacy

But after the terror attack in Pathankot on the very second day of 2016, there is a visible difference in the way things have shaped out.

Both the neighbours, despite all the cynicism and criticism, stuck to the hard-earned ambience of continuing the talks (the foreign secretary-level talks were rescheduled by ‘mutual agreement', India welcomed the special probe team from Pakistan to probe the terror attack at the air base and that the national security advisors of both countries were in constant touch with each other) which kindles much hope in the much-troubled India-Pakistan talks.

Both PMs are showing a positive will

One significant aspect of the current engagement between India and Pakistan is that the prime ministers of both countries are showing a lot of determination in pursuing peace.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had invited his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif along with other South Asian leaders to his oath-taking ceremony in May 2014, was accused of losing the plot on Pakistan later.

It was said the Modi government lacked a consistency when it came to Pakistan but the last few developments in the bilateral relation graph of the two countries suggest that Modi is not someone who would go down in history as a failure.

He has also made it a point to pursue his pro-peace policy vis-à-vis Pakistan at several corners of the globe despite the noise and disruption created by the Opposition and media in his country.

Modi certainly aims at leaving behind a legacy in his Pakistan policy. If he can improve Vajpayee's record to achieve a permanent peace with Pakistan, his place in the history will be invincible.

Sharif aims to reverse history

Premier Sharif, too, similarly wants to leave a legacy behind. It is very easy for a Pakistani leader to pursue a policy of conflict with India and equally hard to script a tale which is against the trend.

Sharif was also the prime minister of Pakistan when Vajpayee had taken up the peace initiative in 1999 but the Kargil War and the military coup that had followed later this year dealt a blow to the leader's statesman-like ambition.

Sharif would not like to see history repeating itself 17 years later with a fresh initiative by yet another Indian prime minister from the BJP against being targeted by the elements.

But time can run out fast for both PMs

Both prime ministers also know that time would not be in their favour for very long. Sharif, who has another two years in office, has the best chance now to cement the civilian administration's authority in Pakistan politics and vis-à-vis the powerful military.

If Sharif can display a strong will of establishing his credibility at this hour and help the democracy in his country take a strong stand against the disruptive elements, then he will not only convince his own countrymen about his responsibility but also the forces in the uniform who feel little assured by the civilian rulers' capability.

The long-term success of Pakistan's democracy can be defined by the success of the Sharif administration in reining in the terror agents in the wake of a terror attack in a country which is perceived to be the biggest enemy. It's an irony but a true one.

For Modi, too, time can be the biggest challenge although his premiership is a year younger than Sharif.

The Pakistani response to Pathankot terror attack has been satisfactory for New Delhi so far but it would not take much time for voices both in Modi's own camp and the Opposition to create a disturbance if the momentum looks lost.

Modi has so far done a decent job in underscoring India's foreign policy priorities and has shown a lot of will in achieving peace with Pakistan by trying unconventional ways.

But all this can prove to be short-lived if New Delhi doesn't get closer to resolving its Pakistan problem fast.

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