President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday formally invited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan to discuss bilateral relations and visit his ancestral village on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak Jayanti this year is on November 28 by which time the second round of the composite dialogue process between the two countries would have been wrapped up. The formal invitation was sent by the President through the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.
Apart from projecting such a visit as a morale booster for the advocates of better relations between the two nations, the date that has been proposed is evidently aimed at projecting a soft image of Pakistan as opposed to a country where minorities are under threat. “If the visit were to coincide with the birthday celebrations of Baba Guru Nanak Sahib, that would not only be well received by the Pakistani nation but also reinforce our mutual desire to promote inter-faith and inter-religious harmony,” Mr. Zardari said in his letter.
Recalling his meeting with Dr. Singh in New Delhi in April this year, the President said Pakistan was happy to see the dialogue process move forward. Referring to the various engagements between the two countries in recent months, he added: “We are confident that the intensity and the range of these engagements will help promote our ties in the right direction and will also help in realizing our shared dream of a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.”
Of the view that this process ought to be sustained and made more productive and result-oriented, Mr. Zardari said: “Our invitation for you to visit Pakistan is outstanding.” This is not the first time that Pakistan has extended an invitation to Dr. Singh as both the President and former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani have done so during their interactions with him in India and elsewhere.
However, New Delhi has remained non-committal till date with the refrain being that Dr. Singh can visit Pakistan only if there is some tangible progress on issues of concern to India. For the Pakistan Peoples Party dispensation - into its last year of this term -- a visit by an Indian premier would be a feather in the cap.