Can India’s Modi and Pakistan’s Sharifs rekindle their talks?

hehbaz Sharif took office as Pakistan’s 24th prime minister on March 5, two days after his Indian counterpart shared a 13-word statement on social networking platform X. The Indian prime minister responded, “Congratulations to @CMShehbaz on being sworn in as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.” It took Sharif two days to reply. On March 7, he posted, “Thank you @narendramodi for your felicitations on my election as the Prime Minister of Pakistan.” Even in a US State Department briefing, worries concerning the possibility of a detente between the nuclear-armed subcontinental neighbors—whose diplomatic relations are hardly functioning—were raised by Modi’s congratulations and Sharif’s reaction. In its opinion, New Delhi and Islamabad should have a “productive and peaceful relationship.” This was expressed by the State Department.

 

However, analysts on both sides of the border argue that the direction of ties can only be determined after India’s upcoming national elections, which are set to take place in April and May, despite the fact that the elder brother of the prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, has a long history of seeking breakthroughs with India, including with Modi. The “most vexing” test of the present government’s foreign policy, according to retired Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi, who has held positions as ambassador to the United Nations, the United States, and the United Kingdom, would be handling relations with New Delhi.

 

“It’s true that the previous Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN), the party of the Sharif brothers, was open to engaging with India, but it used to be reciprocal,” she said to Al Jazeera. However, normalizing relations now faces numerous challenges that are difficult to surmount. The issue of the Kashmir valley, the scenic but disputed Himalayan territory over which they have fought numerous battles since earning independence from British rule in 1947, is arguably the largest barrier to any move toward peace between the neighbors. Both claim the entire region, although they each only have partial authority over it.

 

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