Given the history of India and Pakistan, it is easy to be sceptical about the chances of their latest peace initiative. So let’s start with the positives.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in the United States for the first official state visit by any foreign leader since President Barack Obama took office this year. While the atmospherics are right, and the two leaders probably won't be looking as stilted as Obama and China's President Hu Jintao appeared to be during Obama's trip last week (for the Indians are rarely short on conversation), there is a sense of unease.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has held out an olive branch to Pakistan by renewing an offer to talk, while also calling on it to take action against militants operating from its territory. India’s Press and Information Bureau has the excerpts of a speech delivered in Kashmir. in which Singh held out “a hand of friendship” to Pakistan. It’s worth reading in detail because it was clearly carefully prepared, endorsed politically by Congress president Sonia Gandhi who accompanied the prime minister, and according to The Hindu newspaper. an attempt to advance the peace process with Pakistan.
With so much noise around these days in the relationship between India and Pakistan it is hard to make out a clear trend. Politicians and national media in both countries have reverted to trading accusations, whether it be about their nuclear arsenals, Pakistani action against Islamist militants blamed for last year’s Mumbai attacks or alleged violations of a ceasefire on the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. Scan the headlines on a Google news search on India and Pakistan and you get the impression of a relationship fraught beyond repair.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has staked his political reputation on talks with Pakistan, earning in equal measure both praise and contempt from a domestic audience still burned by last November’s attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants.
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.
India continues to turn up the heat on Pakistan for the Mumbai attacks, declaring once again on Wednesday that all options were open to disrupt militant networks operating from there. And this, a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said official agencies must have been involved in an operation of such sophistication, a serious charge by a head of government against another state.
It has been a tense game of poker between India and Pakistan since the Mumbai attacks. On the face of it, India had the much stronger hand -- not least because it captured one of the attackers alive and got him to confess to being trained in Pakistan.
In the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, India’s response has been to look to the United States to lean on Pakistan, which it blames for spawning Islamist militancy across the region, rather than launching any military retaliation of its own. So after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s trip to India and Pakistan last week, have the Americans done enough for now?