manmohan singh asif zardari
Mr Miliband’s assessment was that there was a “deal on paper” and both Dr Singh and Mr Zardari were “ready” to sign it. - File Photo

NEW DELHI: Former British foreign secretary David Miliband, who visited Islamabad a day before the Mumbai terror attack in 2008, believed then that President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were ready with a deal on Kashmir, but Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was reluctant to clear it, confidential US cables released by WikiLeaks to The Hindu said on Sunday. In one cable, a US diplomat in London quotes Laura Hickey of the Pakistan Team of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as saying that Mr Miliband’s assessment was that there was a “deal on paper” and both Dr Singh and Mr Zardari were “ready” to sign it.

Mr Miliband “concluded (before the November 26 Mumbai bombing) that it was the time to get a deal on Kashmir. Pakistani President Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Singh were ready, and there was a deal on paper. Hickey said Miliband thought Pakistani military chief Kayani was the one ‘reluctant’ about the deal and needed to be persuaded,” the cable said.

But the cable does not clarify Mr Miliband’s view of Gen Kayani or details of the latter’s reluctance. The cable also does not clarify that Gen Kayani’s reluctance was about the deal struck by Mr Zardari and Dr Singh and not about resolution of the Kashmir issue.

The main objectives of the Miliband visit were outreach on counter-radicalisation efforts and support for the Pakistan government’s ownership in the fight against extremism and restoration of economic stability. “Miliband travelled with several British-Pakistani Muslim leaders, who did outreach events focused on life as a Muslim in the UK, respect for minorities, widespread tolerance, and freedom to practise religion in the UK. Hickey said Miliband was ‘pleased’ with the positive impact and media attention generated by the counter-radicalisation outreach events,” the cable said.

“Hickey said the GOP (government of Pakistan) raised its concern about reported USG missile strikes in several of Miliband’s meetings. Miliband pushed back, saying that while he understood such strikes could be seen as de-legitimising for the GOP, the GOP’s public response has not been helpful either. The GOP needs to make greater efforts to counter the extremist threat within its borders. According to Hickey, the underlying tone of his message was that if the GOP took action, then the USG would not have to,” the secret note said.

It quoted Ms Hickey as saying that “following his trip, Miliband was resolved to put energy behind an Indian-Pakistan deal on Kashmir. She thought the November 26 Mumbai bombings would likely strengthen his resolve. HMG is nervous, however, that over-reaction on either government’s part could result in a hardening of positions over or military action in Kashmir, once again derailing any progress.”