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.

Time for India to start talking to Pakistan?

It has been more than a year since the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai and many commentators have been advocating restarting the peace process between India and Pakistan.

Is the time ripe?

The pKASHMIR/rocess that seemed to have restarted with Sharm-al-Sheikh statement stalled after the outcry in India over the statement’s drafting and the subsequent revelations about David Headley.

But a major development since has been Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan which involves a troop surge and announcement of a tentative withdrawal date around July 2011.

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.

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?:

Kashmir’s long road ahead

After India last held state elections in Jammu and Kashmir in 2002, the Kashmir Valley witnessed a period of relative peace only to see it shattered when plans to give land to Hindu pilgrims triggered the biggest protests since the Kashmir separatist revolt erupted in 1989.

The latest elections - which produced a turnout of more than 60 percent despite a boycott call by separatists and ushered in a new state government led by Omar Abdullah - have provided a second chance to change the mood in the volatile Kashmir Valley. But do India and Pakistan, and the Kashmiris themselves, have the ability to turn this second chance into a real opportunity for peace?

Despite the outrage over the Mumbai attacks, blamed by India on Pakistan-based militants, there are some promising signs. The elections were remarkable for the fact that armed separatists based in Pakistani-held Kashmir made no attempt to disrupt the campaign, as they did during the previous polls in 2002. If Indian assertions are correct that the Pakistani security establishment controls the level of armed separatist activity in Kashmir, then the absence of violence would not have been possible without the active cooperation of Pakistan - a factor acknowledged by The Hindu in an editorial

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