Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
As predicted, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan agreed during a meeting in Bhutan that their countries should hold further talks to try to repair relations strained since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters at a regional summit in Thimphu that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani had decided their foreign ministers and foreign secretaries (the top diplomats) should meet as soon as possible.
In agreeing to hold more talks, India and Pakistan have overcome the first major obstacle in the way of better ties – the question of what form their dialogue should take. Pakistan had been insisting on a resumption of the formal peace process, or Composite Dialogue, broken off by India after the attack on Mumbai which it blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. India had been seeking a way back into talks which stopped short of a full resumption of the Composite Dialogue.
The prime ministers, who last met in Egypt last July, appear to have sidestepped that problem by agreeing to hold dialogue on all issues, without specifically labelling this as the Composite Dialogue (which incidentally is meant to cover all issues.)
Having dealt with the form of their talks, the hard part – issues of substance – now lie ahead.
Another international summit. Another chance for the leaders of India and Pakistan to find a way of getting their countries to talk to each other.
After last year’s aborted attempt at peace-making, first in Yekaterinburg and then in Sharm-el-Sheikh, expectations are running low that the prime ministers of India and Pakistan will make much headway when they meet at a SAARC summit in Thimphu, Bhutan this week.