December 2007 News

Pakistan crisis leaves Kashmir peace process in limbo

6 December 2007
The Daily Times

Srinagar: Pakistans political crisis has left efforts to find a solution to the decades-old dispute over Kashmir with archrival India in limbo, analysts and politicians say. Peace talks which started in 2004 are officially continuing but with turmoil in Islamabad all hopes of a short-term breakthrough have been abandoned. The tumult in Pakistan is a temporary setback to the peace process, said Noor Ahmed Baba, head of the political science department at Kashmir University in Srinagar. The peace process has been disrupted by the developments but once things stabilise there, both countries will resume the process, Baba said, calling the drive irreversible. However, Pakistans political churning has come at an unfortunate moment for talks between the neighbours, South Asia expert Prem Shankar Jha said. 5-point agreement, kept secret: Special envoys appointed by both sides for back-channel talks had arrived at a five-point agreement outlining the contours of a settlement over Kashmir, Jha wrote in Indian news magazine Outlook. The agreement contained a framework for joint management of common issues like water, power, communications and defence, with the de facto Line of Control border dividing Kashmir into Indian- and Pakistani-administered regions progressively softened, he said. Though the formula was ready to be unveiled in March-April, both governments decided to keep the agreement secret, preferring to wait for a more propitious moment that never came, Jha said. Today, Kashmir is the last and most expendable thing on Pakistani leaders minds. An Indian official confirmed that the five-point formula had been agreed, and that it was kept away from the public eye because of reservations expressed by some sections within the Indian government. New Delhi has kept a close eye on events in Pakistan since November 3, but has refrained from openly backing any particular political leadership. Opinion in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir, however, is firmly behind Musharraf. Musharrafs presence helped improve relations between India and Pakistan, said ex-Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. Musharraf is credited with supporting a slew of measures to stabilise the fragile ties between India and Pakistan, at loggerheads since 1947. However, Pakistans troubles have meant that Musharraf has had no time to pay attention to the peace process. Events in Pakistan have set back the peace process and put Kashmir on the backburner, said Greater Kashmir newspaper editorial columnist Mohammed Ashraf. Until theres some normalcy in Pakistan, parleys must wait. Musharraf seemed very sincere in ending this mad conflict but now his very survival is in question, he added. Violence has eased since India and Pakistan began the peace talks, but more than 42,000 people have been killed in the insurgency, officials say. Human rights groups estimate the deaths at 60,000 with 10,000 missing. Musharrafs interest in talks overridden: Musharraf used to take a personal interest in the talks but now he himself is in trouble trying to save his own job, said Tahir Mohiudin, editor of Kashmir-based Urdu weekly Chattan. Moderate Kashmiri separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said only a stable Pakistan can have a serious dialogue with India over Kashmir. Presently it seems the dialogue process is on hold.


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