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India hopes for strong civilian govt after polls

india Updated: May 10, 2013 01:52 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

New Delhi's hope for this weekend's historical Pakistani elections is a "strong civilian government" with a "clear mandate" to rule, said senior officials. A government, in other words, whose elements "could speak for themselves."

Only this would result in creating an alternative Pakistani view of India that is different from the variety espoused by the military and the jihadi groups.

A weak regime dependent on Islamicist parties would not merely mean that such hostile forces would remain strong, said officials, it could potentially even threaten the most favoured nation statuses status that Pakistan is set to confer.

MFN status would effectively normalise trading ties between the two countries, bringing them in line with global standards.

Islamabad had postponed the final decision on that front because of this weekend's elections.

India is unconcerned about reports that frontrunner Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (Sharif) may have to join hands with a right wing party to form a government. The view is that Sharif's positive comments about relations with India will still prevail on the policy front as the smaller parties will be bandwagonning on Sharif rather than the other way rounds.

India's assessment is that in a "free and fair" election, Sharif would most likely emerge on top.

Imran Khan is seen as having peaked earlier and that even his recent injury after falling off a forklift truck had not "created much of a bounce."

Khan's choice of candidates, mostly familiar names and discredited names in Pakistani politics, had cost him heavily among voters. The leading question remained how much Khan would eat into Sharif's vote.

Khan and other new political forces like Sufi leader Muhammad Tahir ul Qadri were, in New Delhi's view, promoted by "forces" who wished to sow "confusion" and wanted a hung national assembly.

New Delhi sees the election results as having great potential for its own peace agenda. "For once we have a chance, if other forces let it happen," said the source.