Nitish Kumar with Asif Ali Zardari
In Pakistan's election year, Nitish Kumar's Bihar model of governance is a hit across the border. After praise from Imran Khan, it has now got a thumbs up from Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari, who hosted the Bihar Chief Minister at a special Diwali dinner last night. Mr Kumar has also shared governance tips with officials in Sindh.
What was to have been a regular diplomatic dinner hosted by Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, turned into a Presidential banquet when Mr Zardari learnt that Mr Kumar's visit coincided with Diwali, the festival of lights. At dinner, Mr Zardari appreciated Mr Kumar's "Bihar model of development" with its emphasis on social sector development, particularly in education, healthcare and community development.
Mr Zardari also said that Pakistan wished to have "friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations" with India as there were tremendous opportunities for the two countries to enhance cooperation for their mutual benefit.
"We want the peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes for lasting peace in the region," Mr Zardari said.
He also referred to the Benazir Income Support Programme, Pakistan's flagship poverty alleviation scheme named after his late wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto, which has earned praise from Mr Kumar, who said India could learn from the experiences of the Pakistan government on this crucial front.
Former cricketer Imran Khan, who heads the Tehreek-e-Insaaf, an opposition party, too has been vocal about his admiration for the Bihar Chief Minister, whose Janata Dal (United) rules Bihar in partnership with the BJP.
In an interview to NDTV in September this year, Mr Khan had said, "People are sick of the old political parties. They have taken turns over the last 25 years and they have taken turns to fall to the depths of bad governance. The whole thing hinges on governance. I was reading about Nitish Kumar in Bihar and the secret of success is that you provide good governance, provide enabling environment for investment, prosperity, people are happy."
The Bihar Chief Minister began a week-long visit to Pakistan on Friday last. Over the weekend, Mr Kumar also shared his experiences in improving governance in Bihar with senior functionaries of the southern province of Sindh.
Mr Kumar also toured the historic site of Mohenjodaro, visited an ancient Hindu temple and addressed a Hindu panchayat in Sindh.
Mr Kumar is visiting Pakistan on the invitation of an all-party parliamentary delegation from that country that visited Bihar in August this year.
(With Inputs from PTI)