NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is keen for his Indian counterpart to visit Pakistan before the next Indian elections due by May, but it could all end up as wishful thinking due to imposing problems, not the least their respective hawks and naysayers, informed sources watching this week’s talks between the two countries said on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is widely expected to demit office next year after completing two successive terms. His previous initiatives to normalise ties with Pakistan were stymied by rightwing Hindu revivalist adversaries and also by hawks within his own party.
It is learnt, however, that the Congress party may have given the prime minister complete control of the Pakistan policy, which is potentially the single most encouraging development for any early resumption of peace talks. In that case the truly insurmountable problem is the agenda. What would each side have to offer the other?
Theoretically, Pakistan could see the conviction of a clutch of Muslim extremists in the next few months who were allegedly involved in the Mumbai terror attacks. If that happens, it could help create an improved atmosphere for Dr Singh to justify a visit.
However, the domestic blowback from the possible conviction for Pakistan could be tricky. Led by a powerful pack of vendetta-seekers, revenge violence some expect could not be seen as a happy occasion for Mr Sharif to host anyone for a focused meeting.
Could the Indian PM be yet lured by a Pakistani offer to grant Delhi the most favoured nation status in trade albeit under a less suspect nomenclature? Many Pakistanis do not feel good about the phrase ‘most favoured nation’ being used for ties with India.
If Pakistan ponders these two offers, not without a political cost to its leadership from the naysayers, how would India respond with a matching offer?
Pakistan wants to club the issues of Sir Creek demarcation with troop withdrawal from Siachen, an idea India for whatever reasons feels uncomfortable with. Could there be a thaw on this? For all the talk of resolving the core dispute, the ground has shifted tectonically since both sides pondered certain viable formulas.
The nub of the issue in resolving the Kashmir tangle is the withdrawal of troops on both sides, an idea that already looks defunct with the lurking fallout of developments in Afghanistan, namely the US troop withdrawal, and its ramifications far and wide.
For the moment, however, all eyes are set on the status of the ceasefire on the Line of Control in Kashmir. Would there be a DGMOs meeting as promised by the two prime ministers to fix the issues on the LoC, while also taking the first baby steps towards a military-to-military, face-to-face talk on issues concerning security on the borders.
Little was available on any of this from briefings and statements issued by both sides after Pakistan’s foreign policy adviser Sartaj Aziz met Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday, followed by a call on Dr Singh on Wednesday.
According to the Indian foreign office spokesman, India took up the issue of LoC ceasefire violations with Pakistan. Mr Khurshid was clearly unhappy over a meeting Mr Aziz had had with Hurriyat leaders at the start of his visit on Sunday. He returned home on Wednesday.
Pakistan’s foreign office spokesman justified the “customary” meeting between Mr Aziz and the Hurriyat leaders, saying such exchanges were staple fare under previous Indian governments too.