Monday, October 22, 2012

A Chief Minister trying to be a "goodwill ambassador"

In his first term as the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar had better confined himself to the local politics but in his second term, he seems to be grabbing the national centrestage trying hard to transform himself into a "goodwill ambassador". While he has already visited China, he is scheduled to visit Pakistan the very next month. India just does not share very good relations with those two Asian countries. While tension in relations prevails with China after the latter was accused of doing military build-ups along the border, bilateral relations with Pakistan have soured in the aftermath of 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. Manoj Chaurasia reports…

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may be quite hesitant about visiting Pakistan post Mumbai terror attacks but Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar looks only too eager to visit the neighbouring country. It took just an invitation extended out of sheer courtesy by a visiting Pakistan delegation to Bihar in August this year to make Kumar plan for a weeklong tour to Pakistan!

“It’s worth mentioning that a Pakistani delegation which visited Bihar recently had extended an invitation to the chief minister to visit Pakistan on behalf of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency. After completing the basic formalities, his Pakistan trip has been scheduled between 9 November and 17 November”, says an official statement issued by the state government.

The statement claims that Kumar’s visit to Pakistan will not only promote bilateral ties but also accelerate the dialogue process between the two countries. The dialogue process, it may be noted here, has been virtually got derailed in the aftermath of 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks which killed more than 150 people.

As per his itinerary cleared by the ministry of external affairs, Kumar will be visiting places like Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Mohenjodaro and Taxila during his stay in Pakistan and will also be paying courtesy visits to several top Pakistani leaders, like the President, Prime Minister and also opposition party leader Imran Khan.

Official sources said party ministers Renu Kumari, Sukhda Pandey, Rajya Sabha member NK Singh, chief secretary AK Sinha and home secretary Amir Subhani will be part of the 11-member delegation Mr Kumar will be leading to Pakistan on a “goodwill mission”.

Official sources said Kumar’s proposed tour to Pakistan followed an invitation extended to him by the 18-member Pakistan parliamentary delegation which had visited Bihar in August this year. The invitation to visit Pakistan had been extended on behalf of Punjab chief minister Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

During his visit to Bihar, the Pakistani delegation had called on the chief minister and hugely praised his leadership skills for ushering in development works in his home state. And, apparently an overwhelmed chief minister just did not resist his temptation to visit Pakistan, confided an official of CM’s office.

This is the second time in past 16 months that Bihar chief minister has assumed the new role of a “peace ambassador” to neighbouring countries India does not share very good relations.

Last year in June, Kumar had led a delegation to China on a three-day “goodwill mission”. His visit to China also followed an invitation extended to him by a visiting Chinese envoy to Bihar, and Mr Kumar on his part did not let him down. Earlier, the Bihar CM had visited Bhutan and Mauritius though his goal was to lure foreign investors.

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