The Great Debate UK

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Musharraf’s Kashmir deal, mirage or oasis?

musharraf londonThe foreign secretaries, or top diplomats,  of India and Pakistan are expected to meet on the sidelines of a South Asian summit in Thimpu, Bhutan on Feb 6/7 to try to find a way back into talks which have been stalled since the attack on Mumbai in November 2008. Progress is expected to be limited, perhaps paving the way to a meeting of the foreign ministers, or to deciding how future talks should be structured.

Expectations are running low, all the more so after a meeting between the foreign ministers descended into acrimony last July. And leaders in neither country have the political space to take the kind of risks needed for real peace talks right now. Pakistan is struggling with the fall-out of the assassination of Punjab governor Salman Taseer  among many other things, while Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been weakened by a corruption scandal at home.

However, in the interests of establishing a baseline, I asked former president Pervez Musharraf in an interview earlier this week about a roadmap for peace he had agreed with Prime Minister Singh in 2007 before political turmoil forced him out of office. The roadmap brought the two countries to their nearest in years to a peace deal, and during Barack Obama's presidential election campaign, there was a great deal of hope it  could be revived in order to ease tensions between India and Pakistan  in turn helping to stabilise Afghanistan. Even after the Mumbai attacks ended chances of an early "Kashmir to Kabul" peace settlement, the idea has lingered on as one of the more promising models. Yet since the agreement was reached in secret, its details have never been officially released.

Diplomats say the agreement hinged on an acceptance by India and Pakistan that there would be no exchange of territory in disputed Kashmir but they would work to make irrelevant the Line of Control which divides the region. There was also supposed to be a "joint mechanism" under which Indians, Pakistanis and Kashmiris would oversee areas of common interest.  No one can agree, however, on far advanced the talks were. Some say the deal was ready for signing; others that there was still a long way to go.  In particular, the two countries had yet to agree the nature of the "joint mechanism", and bring on board their own people and domestic constituencies in accepting the agreement. Here is what Musharraf had to say when I asked him about the sceptics' view of the draft agreement:

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Pakistan’s political crisis

gilani kayaniNever in the history of Pakistan has a democratically elected civilian government served out its full term and then been replaced by another one, also through democratic elections. It is that context that makes the latest political crisis in Pakistan so important.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is scrambling to save his PPP-led government after it lost its parliamentary majority when its coalition partner, the  Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), announced it would go into opposition.  A smaller religious party, the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), already quit the coalition last month.  If the government falls and elections are held ahead of schedule in 2013, the opportunity for Pakistan to have a government which serves its full term will be lost.