It is fair to assume that democracy is taking root in Pakistan. The voter turnout may be one indication, but it is the general euphoria, the upsurge and yearning for peace and prosperity that seem to grip the masses and are an indication that people are fed up with terrorism, lawlessness and military interventions. Judiciary, too, has put in a word of caution on military interventions.
Pakistan has travelled quite a distance down the fundamentalist and terrorist path, so halting that movement and reversing its direction may neither be easy nor can it come about early enough. Both the military and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) may not yield ground that willingly and easily.
Nawaz Sharif, the new Prime Minister, had in the past allowed himself to be carried away by the bluff and bluster of Pervez Musharraf, then chief of the Pakistan army, into the Kargil misadventure.
However, he was quick enough, with some prodding by the US, to detect the fault lines in the picture presented to him. Besides Kargil, India has been the target of some major terrorist attacks emanating from Pakistani soil, aided and abetted by the state. This policy of hurting India has equally hit Pakistan. Its economy is in a shambles, there is mass unemployment, inflation is causing misery and the existing infrastructure is in a state of decay for want of resources.
Track record not encouraging
Nurturing jihadi elements and exporting their terrorist activities to India have been proving counter-productive as the same monsters have been turning on Pakistan itself. Radicalism is spreading and besides taking the country back to the middle ages, it's the women of Pakistan who have been greater sufferers. In his earlier avatar, Sharif did allow himself to be carried away to introduce Sharia laws as a constitutional amendment.
Therefore, going by the past record, there is lingering doubt and suspicion as to the possible future policy of that country towards India, but more so as it relates to Kashmir. However, India cannot allow itself to be mired in the unhappy experience of the past, especially when the developments in Pakistan and proclamations of its leadership throw up signs of change and hope.
There appears to be willingness or perhaps desire on the part of the new PM to improve relations with India and build strong trade ties. Pakistan could meet its acute shortage of power from India and push through the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project. There are a range of areas of trade and commerce which can be of benefit to both countries.
Don't expect sea change
Sharif has committed to disallowing Pakistani soil to be used for the export of terrorism to India and that he would rein in jihadi elements. Terrorism and jihadi elements have done much damage to Pakistan itself and the new leadership is alive to the pain this double-edged weapon has inflicted upon it. Sharif appears to be keen to turn over a new leaf in the Pakistan-India relationship.
However, it would be unrealistic for India to expect a sea change on the part of Pakistan regarding all contentious areas that have dogged relations between the two countries.
Notwithstanding India's long and painful experience of dealing with Pakistan and its repeated perfidy, it needs to shed old prejudices, free itself of old baggage and give peace and friendship with Pakistan a chance. It must move forward, perhaps cautiously, and meet Pakistan half-way. Both countries need to find fair and equitable solutions to long-standing problems.
Kashmir remains the more intractable of the pestering issues and requires statesmanship, patience and ingenuity in resolving it. Both nations are grappling with crippling poverty, unemployment and hunger and much can be achieved by building friendship and diverting resources to these pressing problems.
Pakistan has allowed itself to be used by China as a proxy against India and it is here that the former will find it difficult to free itself from this bind and follow an independent policy, which is in its best interest.
The Chinese Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan on the eve of installation of the new government is not without purpose and Pakistan needs to be wary of being involved in such geopolitics of the region as would eventually lead to Pakistan's own disadvantage. It would be the right gesture for the Indian PM to accept Sharif's invitation to attend his swearing-in ceremony.
The write is a commentator on defence and security issues. Views expressed are personal