The nuclear armed neighbors from South Asia have since long surprised the pundits by their bilateral diplomacy. After three full-fledged wars and a proxy in progress, they are still optimistic about what the future holds for them. This has got to be the "Beauty and the Beast of the International Arena".
Narendra Modi's electoral sweep more than a week ago came as a bombshell to the liberal forces of Pakistan, who for long against all odds have raised the white flag for their Eastern neighbor in the name of peace, trade and coexistence. Modi's legacy, as a veteran of the Hindu Nationalist organization RSS, follows him like an unwanted shadow. He cannot be separated from RSS core belief, that the partition of the sub-continent is unfair to majority Hindus, thrice being banned from operations (last in 1992) and of course the well-orchestrated riots of Gujarat in 2002.
Similar skepticism remains on the other side of the border, and with good reason. During his last stint as Premier (1997-99) Pakistan went nuclear following Indian tests, Kargil confrontation in the back drop of much celebrated PM Vajpayee visit to Lahore, where Indians felt betrayed over Pakistan's aggression under Sharif's leadership.
Two odds make an even, and the tested mathematical theorem played its role when Modi invited Sharif to his inauguration. It was still not over, however as rumor had it that Pakistan's military establishment was opposed to Sharif's attendance in New Delhi. Of course they had no basis for this, since Pakistan's over stretched forces should welcome detente with its Eastern adversary. However, the two leaders' handshake at the inauguration ceremony completely overshadowed the odds in favor of compatibility. Sharif is the first Premier to attend the inauguration ceremony of a counterpart across the border, sending strong vibes in the right direction. The inauguration itself was exceptional with all SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) leaders converging in New Delhi, (Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh being the only exception) setting the tone for regional unity
which has been missing for a while in the back drop of Indo-Pak tensions.
The new leadership in India and Pakistan have certainly kicked off the proceedings in the promising colors of bilateral prosperity and understanding. With seemingly towering challenges, this new found momentum can drive both neighbors in a mutually beneficial direction, that is of cooperation, respect and acceptance of each others interests. Among the challenges, the role of non-state actors and agencies, Kashmir, water resources and Afghanistan will determine the long term prospective. The prospect of a new beginning has been aided by the fact that both countries now enjoy powerful majority governments. (The PPP under Zardari and Congress under Manmohan hardly had the freedom to move away from traditional policies).
Based on the factors at hand, an optimistic outcome can be expected from the Modi and Sharif reign.