India Insight

Zardari’s India visit: Much ado about nothing?

As the hype over Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s India visit settles, critics and the general public are wondering whether the so-called dargah diplomacy could be a game changer in India-Pakistan ties?

Zardari’s trip to India, the first by Pakistan’s head of state since Pervez Musharraf’s visit in 2005, was overshadowed by the spectre of Hafiz Saeed, who had a $10 million American bounty placed on his head this week.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Zardari it is imperative the perpetrators of the 2008 Mumbai attacks are brought to justice.

New Delhi’s insistence on punishing Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, may put further pressure on Islamabad to take action against one of its most notorious Islamist leaders. But the Pakistani establishment has maintained there is no concrete evidence against Saeed.

It remains to be seen whether Saeed, whose whereabouts in Pakistan are no secret, will be reined in. After all, he has been cleared by Pakistani courts.

Will India’s Kashmir talks offer break fresh ground?

New Delhi said this week it will adopt “quiet diplomacy” with every section of political opinion to find a solution to the problems in India-ruled Kashmir about four years after it opened a dialogue with separatist groups there.

The response to the announcement is on expected lines — the moderates welcoming it and pro-Pakistan hardliners reminding any effort at peace without involving Islamabad would be futile.

New Delhi has not yet made a formal offer for talks. But the timing of the development appears to be significant.

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.

Is India failing to win hearts and minds in Kashmir?

Is India pushing the ordinary Kashmiri people further away by enforcing regular curfews, putting most of their separatist leaders under house arrest and denying them religious freedom by banning Friday prayers in Kashmir’s Jamia Masjid (grand mosque) on a regular basis to avoid violence?

I travelled to Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir this week, and saw how people were tired of violence and wanted peace and dignity in the region.

Many told me how they felt unhappy each time an incident of violence in a remote corner of the city would scare authorities into shutting down the city and forced them to stay indoors, many without any provisions.

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