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Pak under Sharif: 'Expect boost in ties with India'

May 14, 2013 13:22 IST

Pakistan may improve its ties with India and fine-tune its anti-terror strategy under the new government headed by Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif, Chinese analysts have said.

Under Sharif, the relationship between Pakistan and India might also improve, Wang Dehua, head of the South and Central Asian Studies Institute at the Shanghai Institute for International Strategic Studies told state-run Global Times said.

"In 1999, Sharif managed to invite then Indian prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for a historic visit to Pakistan," Wang noted.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote on his official Twitter page on Monday that he hoped to chart "a new course for the relationship" between the nuclear-armed neighbours. And Sharif said that he would be "very happy" to invite Dr Singh to his swearing-in ceremony.

Apart from foreign policies, Sharif will also have to face major domestic challenges including improving economic development and energy security. "Compared to his predecessors, the advantage for Sharif is that he can create a stronger government as he does not have to form a coalition with major opposition parties," Wang said.

With Sharif’s return to power the future of Pakistan's strategy for the war against terrorism and its relationship with the United States will be on in focus, Fu Xiaoqiang, a professor on South Asian affairs at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told the daily.

While Islamabad will continue fighting terrorism and maintain its alliance with Washington, at the same time the new Pakistani leadership is likely to seek more non-military solutions to the issue and place more emphasis on the protection of its core national interests when conducting joint anti-terror operations with other countries, he said.

China welcomed Sharif's victory and its Premier Li Keqiang would be among the first foreign dignitaries to meet Sharif as he would visit Islamabad next week after his visit to India.

Observers believe that Sharif is actually taking a more pragmatic approach regarding Islamist militancy and Pakistan's relationship with the US, which could be seen by the fact that he was less vocal against US drone strikes compared to cricket star Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party leader Imran Khan, Fu said.

"As he had promised his supporters in the campaign, Sharif knows that military means alone cannot deal with the threat of Taliban. He will also try to negotiate more and seek tribal reconciliation and better governance," he said.

Regarding the relationship with the US, Sharif will keep some distance between Islamabad and Washington, carefully gauging the domestic response while trying not to let the bilateral relationship deteriorate, while also attempting to influence the US assistance for the war on terror, he said.

Fu, who also noted that the US and Pakistan have been cooperating for over 10 years, and breaking such an alliance would be a result that neither side could afford.

"For Islamabad, Washington's aid remains very important now considering the grave economic and security situations at home," Fu said.

Image: Nawaz Sharif will head Pakistan's newly-elected government | Photograph: Mohsin Raza/Reuters


K J M Varma in Beijing