India Insight

from Afghan Journal:

Can India, Pakistan possibly back off in Afghanistan?

INDIA-PAKISTAN

Now that India and Pakistan have agreed to hold further talks following a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries, are they going to step back from a bruising confrontation in Afghanistan?

It's a war fought in the shadows with spies and proxies, and lots of money. Once in a while it gets really nasty as in deadly attacks on Indian interests for which New Delhi has pointed the finger at Pakistan.

It's not clear what subjects Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani touched on during their meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Bhutan, but Afghanistan clearly is an important subtext, arguably the most pressing one at this time.

Both countries are positioning themselves for an eventual U.S. withdrawal from the country, with Pakistan clearly holding the better cards at the moment, both as a result of its geography and long-standing links with a resurgent Taliban.

Like much else in their tormented relationship each fears the other's involvement in Afghanistan. Pakistan worries that Kabul will end up with close links to New Delhi, allowing India to essentially "surround" Pakistan; India fears that if the Taliban return to power, it will face more attacks at home.

Manmohan Singh’s shrinking room for manoeuvre on Pakistan

It is more than two weeks since Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a declaration with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani aimed at rebuilding ties, but the attacks on Singh haven’t abated at home.

By agreeing to delink terrorism from the broader peace process and including a reference to the threats inside Pakistan’s troubled Baluchistan province – which Pakistan says is stoked by India – Singh is seen to have gone too far to accommodate the neighbour without getting anything in return.

If the sustained nature of the attacks from the security establishment, the Hindu nationalist opposition and the sniper firing from within Singh’s ruling Congress is any indication, he has a rocky path ahead in any engagement with Pakistan.

India, Pakistan: two steps forward and four backwards?

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has dropped a plan to travel to Egypt next month where he was expected to hold further talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following their meeting in Russia this week.

Pakistan’s foreign office has said Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will attend the summit of Non-Aligned Nations in the Egyptian city of Sharm El Sheikh although soon after the Singh-Zardari meeting in Yekaterinburg the two sides announced plans for a second meeting in July.

Has something gone wrong?

Newspapers on both sides of the border read more into the change of plans than just a normal swap of duties between the prime minister and the president.

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