Cross-border terrorism and Kashmir find their way in the talking points, but the positive note is upheld.
New Delhi: Pakistan prime minister-elect Imran Khan’s face was wreathed in smiles when India’s high commissioner Ajay Bisaria presented him with a cricket bat Friday evening with signatures from the entire Indian cricket team.
That set off a conversation about Indian captain Virat Kohli, at which Khan waxed eloquent about his amazing gamesmanship as well as strength of character.
Bisaria called on Khan at his home in Bani Gala, on the outskirts of Islamabad, to offer his congratulations. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) party also crossed the simple majority threshold in Parliament Friday, triggering another celebration.
Khan told Bisaria that for his swearing-in ceremony on 18 August, he planned to invite old friends and fellow cricketers Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar and Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Dev, in an interview with ThePrint recently, had said he would attend Khan’s swearing-in ceremony if he was invited to it and if the Indian government let him go.
“We had a very fulfilling and positive discussion about a range of subjects,” Bisaria told ThePrint over the phone line from Pakistan. “I impressed upon Mr Imran Khan the positive atmosphere in Delhi on his election as well as a new optimism that relations would move forward,” Bisaria added.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s telephone call to Khan on 30 July was a sign of improved ties to come.
The significance of the cricket bat as gift was not lost on the leaders present, including former Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Shireen Mazari, author of a one-sided book on the Kargil conflict. The bat is also the party symbol of the PTI.
Indian official sources said the half-hour meeting was marked by a “candid exchange of views,” and that Bisaria briefed Khan and his accompanying leadership on India’s “concerns about terrorism and cross-border infiltration.”
According to a PTI press release, Khan urged both countries to restart a dialogue during which they could talk about all outstanding issues, including Kashmir. The subject of human rights violations in the Kashmir valley came up.
“Imran Khan also expressed the hope that the SAARC Summit would be held soon in Islamabad,” the press release said.
But the Indian sources said they would move carefully on the relationship with Pakistan. Any cricket tours or other people-to-people measures, like trade and easier travel, may have to wait for the ice to break on the political front as well.