Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
Even before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari broke the ice by meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia last month, the real question over talks between India and Pakistan has not been about the form but the substance.
After the bitterness of last year’s attacks on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants, can India and Pakistan work their way back to a roadmap for an agreement on Kashmir reached two years ago? Although never finalised, the roadmap opened up the intellectual space for an eventual peace deal. This week’s meetings between India and Pakistan on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt could give some clues on whether it has any chance of being revived.
India broke off the formal peace process, the so-called composite dialogue, with Pakistan after the three-day assault on Mumbai blamed on the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group once nurtured by Pakistan to fight India in Kashmir. But even before the attack, informal behind-the-scenes talks on Kashmir held under former president Pervez Musharraf had fallen victim to the political turbulence which led to his ouster last year, and any hope of reviving them under the new civilian government led by Zardari was dashed altogether by the Mumbai assault.
Ahead of the NAM summit in Sharm el-Sheikh — during which the foreign secretaries of both countries will meet on the sidelines, to be followed by talks between Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani – the two countries have been trying to put together the pieces of their shattered relationship.
With the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan likely to meet on the sidelines of a summit in Egypt this month, to be followed up by talks between the two countries’ leaders, newspapers on both sides of the border are exploring the space for progress in a peace process broken off by New Delhi after last November’s attacks on Mumbai.
The Hindu says that officials in both New Delhi and Islamabad are working to prepare the ground for the meetings – expected to take place on the sidelines of a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Sharm el-Sheikh – so that at least some progress can be made.