Modi's Birthday Diplomacy: A Hug In Lahore Stirs Hope In Kashmir

25 December 2015
Sameer Yasir

Srinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's surprise visit to Pakistan on Friday to greet Nawaz Sharif on the Pakistani PM's birthday has surprised many in Kashmir, more so by the menu served to the Indian premier on his arrival in Lahore, which included 'Kashmiri Chai,' a beverage consumed enthusiastically in the Valley throughout the year. Modi signaled on Twitter his intention to veer off schedule and visit Sharif in Lahore. The Pakistani PM met Modi at the airport from where they flew to Sharif's Rawalpindi residence in the eastern state of Punjab. Kashmir, which tinges all such diplomatic gestures (overtly or otherwise), seemed to react favourably to the meeting. 'This is how it should be. We need bold steps, optimism, out-of-the-box ideas and, more importantly, leaders who are ready to take risks for the betterment of the relationship between India and Pakistan,' Waheed Ur Rehamn Para, political analyst to Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, told Firstpost. 'Our government has been pushing for dialogue between India and Pakistan. When PM Modi came to Srinagar Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti did not talk about an economic package but pushed for the need to have dialogue between two nations,' Para added. Sayeed is undergoing medical treatment in New Delhi. An official spokesperson for the CM said Sayeed is 'delighted' by Modi's visit, which will further 'strengthen the bonds of friendship and usher in an era of peace and stability in the region'. 'This is an evolutionary process and step in the right direction. It indicates the prime minister's resolve to enter into a long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan,' he said. Sayeed, he added, hoped that the meeting would provide momentum to the Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue for the peaceful resolution of all contentious issues between the two countries. 'This initiative, besides being a great step towards improvement of bilateral relations, will also give impetus to the concept of SAARC,' he said. Kashmiri separatists too appeared pleased with Modi's visit to Pakistan. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq termed it 'a positive move'. Mirwaiz tweeted: 'Modi's surprise visit to Pakistan a positive move, people of Kashmir welcome any opportunity that bring India Pak close, political will & Vision needed on all sides to address issues specially Kashmir.' Hurriyat Conference (moderates) senior leader, Abdul Gani Bhat, said on Friday that he supports the resumption of 'comprehensive dialogue' between India and Pakistan. 'Resumption of what is now termed as comprehensive dialogue to resolve all disputes, including of course the dispute on Kashmir and consider this development as an effectively civilized means to move out from the frozen yesterdays to a peacefully productive tomorrow,' he said in a statement issued to the media. 'Muslim Conference,' which is part of the Hurriyat Conference a conglomerate of different separatist organisations in Kashmir, he said 'chooses to felicitate all such diplomats and politicians as have shown will, vision and realism to rise above ironies and distortions, to prefer negotiations to confrontation and to get going towards resolving disputes in the interests of peace and prosperity. Remember India and Pakistan are nuclear countries. Belligerency is absolutely no option. This is where the logic behind efforts to encourage this state to resolve disputes lies'. Former chief minister and working president of the National Conference, Omar Abdullah tweeted: 'The re-engagement with Pakistan is a good step and a very welcome development.' He added later: 'However, more than grand gestures we need consistency (in India-Pakistan relations). Indo-Pak relations have been plagued by knee-jerk reactions & a lack of consistency. Looking towards two PMs to correct this this time.'