The verdict is out: Pakistan’s latest ‘peace talks’ with India were anything but peaceful. Furthermore, insiders say that nobody really ‘talked’ either – rather, everyone ‘talked over’ each other. The ending was a bout between two immaculately dressed foreign ministers – one a verbose South Punjabi and the other an insipid South Indian – and a very cold departure from a very hot Islamabad by some very frigid Hindustanis.
But while Pakistan’s news cycle has quickly adjusted back to fake degrees and the charge of the Hillary brigade, Indian journos have refused to let go of their ‘Agra 2’ – the new version of a similar breakdown in 2001 when then president Musharraf visited the Taj and buried Vajpayee’s charms right next to Shahjahan’s beloved Mumtaz Mahal. Thus, an insight into what our friends on the other side are thinking is key…
Questioning peace, The Himalayan mulls: “While the Indian government is keen to mend fences with Pakistan, it will not compromise on its ‘core concern’, which is the repeated use of terror…India had grown at over 8 per cent after Mumbai and it will continue to grow…‘despite Pakistan’, the clear implication being that Pakistan needs the dialogue process more than India does.”
Blaming Qureshi, the Indian Express recalls: “Qureshi was not happy with an open-ended language like [talks would resume] “at an appropriate time” and wanted India to specify a timeline. India, on its part, said it was in no position to provide a timeframe as the progress and pace…are linked to…the Mumbai attacks investigation….There is also a sense of concern here at the way Qureshi conducted himself…and his ‘petulance’ that left the Indian side…surprised.”
Analysing Pakistan’s establishment, the Hindustan Times alleges: “When the prime ministers…met in Thimpu…Gilani indicated he had the full support of his military…When the foreign ministers of the two countries met in mid-July, the men in khaki were opposed…developments, say sources in both countries, led them to change their minds. The first development was the political resurgence of President Asif Ali Zardari. The Pakistan military has sought to marginalise him…The military’s view about the dialogue with India had shifted from support to strong doubt. One reason, say sources in Pakistan, was the establishment’s view was that a successful dialogue with India would only add another feather to Zardari’s cap.”
But, batting for Pakistan, the Bangalore Mirror cautions: “It’s so easy to blame Pakistan…But if the trust deficit between India and Pakistan has to be seriously addressed…then India should be willing…to accept that ‘composite dialogue’ is not a rhetorical ploy… but a reflection of how all conflicts in South Asia are basically interlinked…Like India in Kashmir, Pakistan has bled profusely in Afghanistan. It has a right to be concerned about the future of that country…Subsequently, India has invested heavily in Kabul…We remain the venal Karzai regime’s main backer. We have four consulates in Afghanistan and have given its government $1.2 billion in aid, a whopping sum for a country that is 99 per cent Muslim and with which we have no common border. We have also put up their new parliament building and chancery, and have helped train the Afghan army. In terms of one nation’s special interests that subvert another nation’s special interests, how is our involvement in Kabul different from that of Pakistan in Kashmir?”
Finally, sounding the doomsday alarm, the Hindustan Times declares: “‘In an unstable Pakistan…government and the army will become even more dependent upon China,’ the New Delhi-based Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses has warned…[The 156-page report] said: ‘…agencies in Pakistan will continue…using terror as a tool of pressure against India…an increasing unstable Pakistan may manifest in several ways – Lebanonisation (being divided into several small pockets) or…even face disintegration…The army will get more aggressive as it finds itself fighting to save Pakistan: and its own identity. This could result in more sabrerattling and brandishing of the nuclear threat…Within Pakistan, the society will get fragmented. The ethnic, linguistic and provincial fault lines may get accentuated. Insurgency in Balochistan might get worse. Sindh and NWFP will not remain unaffected. They will challenge Punjab’s dominance…’”