Pakistani Premier in Delicate Dance With India


Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, returned home from New Delhi to faint praise and considerable criticism, the latter suggesting that his 30-hour sojourn in Delhi to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week had been his riskiest gamble yet in improving his country’s relations with India.

Fifteen years ago, in February 1999, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of India crossed the India-Pakistan border at Wagah in a bus and was received with much pomp and evident affection by a considerably younger Mr. Sharif, then Pakistan’s prime minister for the second time. Both men were conscious that they were making history, and said as much in public statements. India and Pakistan had fought three wars already since becoming independent nations in 1947, and the year before, in 1998, both countries had tested nuclear weapons.

Three months later, in the summer of 1999, the Pakistan Army infiltrated the Line of Control between India and Pakistan and into Indian-controlled Kashmir, the region that continues to be a source of strife between the two countries, as each claims a piece of the disputed territory. Mr. Vajpayee appealed to the United States president, Bill Clinton, to get Mr. Sharif to pull back across the Line of Control. The man he had embraced only weeks before had betrayed him, Mr. Vajpayee later said, although Mr. Sharif would later maintain that he had had absolutely no idea, at any stage, about the meticulous planning that had gone into his own army’s invasion of India at Kargil….

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