LAHORE – In 2005, during a visit to Islamabad, I met Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and told him of a conversation I had had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India. The Indian leader, whom I have known for years, had said that he wanted better relations with Pakistan as one his legacies.
Musharraf’s response was interesting. He said he had the same aspiration, but that it would need effort from both sides to move things along. “I have invited Manmohan a half-dozen times to visit Pakistan. I have also offered to take him to his village near Chakwal, a few miles south of Islamabad, where he was born. But he continues to demur,” he told me.
I repeated the conversation to Singh, who explained that in a democracy such as India, a great deal of work needs to be done with the members of the coalition and the senior bureaucracy before the prime minister can travel to Pakistan. “Musharraf is a military leader; he needs only to pack his bags and head this way.”
Musharraf did head that way a few months later, when he forced an invitation out of Singh to watch a cricket match between the two sides in New Delhi in 2005. It took the Indian government some time to formulate an answer to Musharraf’s request for a visit. When it came, it carried Singh’s characteristic warmth.