India Insight

from Afghan Journal:

Ahead of Lisbon, soul-searching in Pakistan

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For all of former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's faults, the one thing you would have to give him credit for is the emergence of a free press. It's every bit as fearless, and questioning as its counterpart across the border in India, sometimes even stepping over the line, as some complain.

Indeed east of the Suez, and perhaps all the way to Japan, it would be hard to find a media that is as unrestrained as in India and Pakistan, which is even more remarkable in the case of Pakistan given the threat posed by a deadly militancy.

And so in the run-up to the Lisbon summit where NATO leaders will decide, among other things, the way forward in Afghanistan, a few Pakistanis have spoken forcefully. They touch upon Pakistan's role as a conflicted ally in the war there and the extreme danger that the state itself  faces now because of its refusal, or inability to break ranks with militant organisations. More striking, they challenge some long-held beliefs relating to India and Pakistan, in ways you would think was unthinkable.

One of them is an influential Pakistani newspaper editor, who according to Arnaud de Borchgrave in a piece carried by the Atlantic Council, has just made the rounds of Washington, delivering a stunning indictment of some of the players involved in the Afghan conflict.  He can't be named and his comments were off-the-record, but meant for public use, Borchgrave says.

He has listed some of them, and I can do no better than sum them up here, given they speak so directly to the issues at the heart of a troubled region.

India-Pakistan “secret pact” – was Kashmir accord just a signature away?

India and Pakistan held secret talks for more than three years, reached an accord on the thorny Kashmir issue and had almost unveiled it in 2007 before domestic turmoil in Pakistan derailed it, former Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri has revealed.

A Border Security Force(BSF) soldier stands guard next to the national flags of India (L) and Pakistan near the Pakistan border in Chamliyal, 45 km west of Jammu, June 25, 2009. REUTERS/Amit GuptaKasuri says the two nuclear-armed rivals, who rule the Himalayan region in parts, had agreed to full demilitarisation of both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir with a package of loose autonomy on both sides of the Line of Control, a military control line that divides the region between two nations.

“We agreed on a point between complete independence and autonomy,” Kasuri told Times of India.

Indian PM’s media coup at Yekaterinburg

“I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism.” This was how Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began his crucial meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia’s Yekaterinburg on Tuesday.

The comment, made in the full glare of the media, hit Zardari like a well-aimed arrow as the embarrassed Pakistani leader quickly interrupted to ensure the reporters were asked to leave the room.

Those few dramatic moments may have served Singh two crucial purposes: Pakistan could not showcase the meeting as proof that it was again business as usual between the two countries. Second, Singh managed to preclude any criticism back home that India had capitulated before Pakistan.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

When India and Pakistan shake hands

As encounters go between the leaders of India and Pakistan, the meeting in Russia between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari -- their first since last November's Mumbai attacks -- was a somewhat stolid affair.

It had none of the unscripted drama of the handshake famously offered by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee when they met at a South Asian summit in Kathmandu in January 2002, while the two countries mobilised for war following an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001. Musharraf's gesture made little difference in a military stand-off which continued for another six months.

Nor did it carry the warmth of a summit meeting between Vajpayee and then prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Lahore in 1999, which raised high hopes of a breakthrough peace deal between India and Pakistan. Those hopes were dashed months later when the two countries fought a bitter conflict in the mountains above Kargil, on the Line of Control dividing disputed Kashmir.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

India and Pakistan’s missed opportunities on Kashmir

India and Pakistan aren't always bickering, including over Kashmir, the dispute that has defined their relationship over more than six decades. Away from the public eye, top and trusted envoys from the two countries have at various times sat down and wrestled with the problem, going beyond stated positions in the public and even teasing out the contours of a deal. In the end of course, someone's nerve failed, or something else happened and the deal was off.

Beginning 2004  and up until November 2007 India and Pakistan were embarked on a similar course and very nearly came to an agreement on Kashmir, says investigative journalist Steve Coll in an article for the New Yorker. Special envoys from the two countries met in secret in hotels in London, Bangkok and London to lay out a solution and after three years they were ready with the broad outline of a settlement that would have de-militarised Kashmir.

An abstract of the article  is here and the Washington Post  has a story on it.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Musharraf planning to visit India

Former President Pervez Musharraf was always one for the grand gesture. So it should come as no surprise that after a period of relative obscurity following his resignation in August last year, he will visit India as part of a series of lectures he plans to give worldwide.

In an interview with the BBC, Musharraf, who has just returned from a trip to the United States, said he was enjoying his retirement and had been invited to give lectures on Pakistan and the South Asian region around the world. "He said the first invitation he had accepted was from India, where he expected to speak at a conference in Delhi next month," the BBC said.

“I love this life. I am relaxed and satisfied. And I am enjoying my lecture tours," he told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. "Next month I am going to India for the same purpose. Let’s counter the Indians on their own home ground.”

Timing of Jaipur blasts will raise suspicion of Pakistani hand

Are militants, or even hawks within the Pakistani establishment, trying to undermine the peace process with India, now that President Pervez Musharraf has removed his uniform and civilians are squabbling for power?

A injured man receives treatment after a series of bomb blasts in Jaipur May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Vinay Joashi via You Witness NewsThe dust has scarcely settled on another horrific bomb attack in India, and the investigation has only just begun into the synchronised blasts in Jaipur that killed around 60 people .

It is still far too early to be drawing any firm conclusions, but the timing of the blasts is already making some people wonder whether Pakistan was involved.

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