Our bilateral relations are witnessing an all-round progress, the Bihar Chief Minister said at a luncheon hosted by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah.

Taking the India-Pakistan dialogue beyond the foreign policy discourse and Track II interactions to nut-and-bolt governance issues at the provincial level, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday captured the attention of Sindh’s political class with an easy narration of the `Bihar growth story’ and repeated underscoring of the shared history and heritage of the two countries.

And, for the greater part of the day, Mr. Kumar had on the Sindhi cap and `ajrak’ (traditional Sindhi wrap) -- a sure way of winning hearts and minds in the province – that was presented to him by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. Though he had come prepared with a detailed speech on the Bihar turnaround for the seminar on experience-sharing between the two provinces, he set it aside to engage with the gathering of politicians from across the political spectrum.

Though he made no reference to the violence in Karachi, Mr. Kumar dwelt at length on how his administration had addressed the law and order situation in Bihar; stressing the importance of peace at every level for development. Among the governance issues that he flagged and measures adopted in Bihar, the Sindh politicians evinced interest in the Right to Public Services Act and the manner in which the Right to Information has been implemented in the State.

Mr. Kumar – who arrived in Karachi on Friday evening – began his day with a visit to the `mazar’ of Pakistan’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah where he offered `fateha’ (prayer for the dead). He also visited Mohatta Palace – which housed the Pakistan Foreign Ministry immediately after Partition and is now a museum – where he commented on the cultural links between the two nations; a recurrent observation through the day.

Writing in the Visitor’s Book, he said: ``The visit to Mohatta Palace built in the tradition of stone palaces of Rajasthan in India has reinforced my belief that the cultural links between our two nations are abiding which is central to our history. If we shared a common past, it is wise to share a common future regardless of geographical boundaries.’’

Mr. Kumar is on a week-long visit to the country on the invitation of not just the federal government but also the provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab. The invitation was extended to him during a visit of a Pakistani parliamentary delegation to Bihar four months back and this engagement at the ``sub-national level’’ was encouraged by the Prime Minister’s Office and the External Affairs Ministry as it builds on the initiative taken by Manmohan Singh to build peace with Pakistan.

Besides meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf, former premier Nawaz Sharif and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, his visit is also scheduled to take him to Mohenjo Daro, Taxila, Katas Raj Temple, the sufi shrine Data Darbar, Gurudwara Dera Sahib and the Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.