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Pradip Kumar Maitra , Hindustan Times
Nagpur, May 24, 2014
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's decision to attend the swearing-in ceremony of PM designate Narendra Modi and asked him not to "miss this opportunity to improve relations with India".

"This is an opportunity for the Pakistan PM to improve his country's relations with India. He would be committing a mistake if he doesn't respond positively," said MG Vaidya, RSS ideologue and former chief of its intellectual cell.

After two days of suspense, Sharif confirmed his attendance amid reports that a section of Pakistani establishment (read army) was opposed to his participation at the launch of a leader who has been the most vocal critic of his country.

Vaidya, however, said that a sizable number of Pakistani leaders who harbour anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiments never want a peaceful relationship to develop between the two countries.

To exemplify his point, the RSS ideologue referred to Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed's speech in which he warned Sharif against attending Modi's swearing in ceremony. Saeed had said building trade or diplomatic relations was futile unless Kashmir dispute is resolved.

The invite to Sharif shows a change, if not a shift, in both Sangh and BJP's stance towards Pakistan. In the past, both have accused the Congress of being soft towards the neighbouring country.

"It is a welcome move and India should appreciate it. It would be a new chapter in the bilateral relations of the two neighbours," said Virag Pachpore, a former pracharak and a senior swayamsevak.

However, another senior RSS leader who preferred anonymity said Modi should put pressure on Pakistan for handing over India's most wanted criminal Dawood Ibrahim and Hafiz Saeed when he meets Sharif.

"We are strongly against pursuing talks with Pakistan until they hand over these two wanted criminals," he said.