India’s Singh makes an opening to Pakistan

June 10, 2009

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to Pakistan on Tuesday, saying he was ready to go “more than half way” if Islamabad cracked down on militants. Peace with Pakistan was in India’s “vital interest” he told parliament in a speech, presumably directed at those in the Indian strategic establishment who believe in a more muscular approach toward Pakistan especially after the Mumbai attacks.

So is Singh laying the ground for a slight thaw in ties?  Since he was re-elected with a stronger mandate, some kind of opening to Pakistan has been expected, given that it has been more than  six months since ties went into deep chill following the attacks in November. The feeling in New Delhi has been sooner than later it has to engage Pakistan.  You cannot change your neighbours, new foreign minister S.M.Krishna said soon after taking over and if that is the case, you can’t not talk to your neighbour indefinitely.

The Times of India said Krishna quoted President John F. Kennedy to his officers: “Never negotiate out of fear, but never fear to negotiate.”

Mansoor Ijaz, an American of Pakistan origin writing in the Washington Post, said Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari should call for a peace summit this summer.  Singh and Zardari were two leaders who could make peace, he argued. The newly mandated Indian leader was now strong enough politically to risk a peace gamble; Zardari on the other hand  was an ideal candidate to reach out and make peace because he did not see India as an existential threat.  He also had a penchant for risk-taking, Ijaz said.

“India’s election results give it the political strength to offer such a plan. Pakistan’s myriad problems demand that it accept any reasonable offer at the table. The moment to secure durable peace in Kashmir is now,” he wrote.




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