‘Washington Desperately Wants India, Pak To Settle Kashmir’

14 June 2009
Greater Kashmir

Srinagar: Would the prime minister, Dr Manmohan Singh’s proposed meeting with the Pakistan president, Asif Ali Zardari, on the sidelines of Shanghai Co-operation Council in Moscow, mark the revival of the stalled composite dialogue between the two countries? Although the Government of India is playing down the proposed Manmohan-Zardari meet as just a “chance encounter” devoid of any formal agenda, there are strong indications that the two countries would be getting back to the negotiating table very soon. While Pakistani leadership is making repeated pleas for resumption of the dialogue with India – halted by 26-11 Mumbai attacks – there is, of late, a noticeable change in the Indian disposition vis-à-vis Pakistan. Recent statements by Indian leadership including those by Manmohan Singh, President Pratibha Patil and foreign minister, S M Krishna, are indicative of a shift in the Indian posture. According to reports, the US is acting as a key backroom player in reviving the Indo-Pak peace process as the Obama Administration has launched renewed efforts for the resumption of the stalled peace process. “Washington is desperately keen for India and Pakistan to settle their differences over Kashmir so that Zardari can turn his attention to his own internal problems in dealing with extremism,” British newspaper Sunday Herald wrote today. The US under secretary of state, William Burns, without mincing words said in Delhi on Thursday that the US wanted the Kashmir issue resolved in keeping with the aspirations of its people. Burns asked New Delhi not to underestimate the seriousness of, and difficulties faced by, Islamabad in its effort to contain extremists. “We find it encouraging if a country that is friend to both Pakistan and India is helping in the process,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Tuesday. Reports suggest that there is a growing realization in Delhi as to how long it could sustain the policy of not talking to Islamabad particularly in the backdrop of the fact that the desired objectives of the talks’ suspension have not achieved their objectives and were rather hurting India’s own regional interests. According to reports, the Indian officials privately admit that they were “deeply impressed by the actions taken by Islamabad against the elements accused of perpetrating the Mumbai attack,” notwithstanding the release of Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Saeed by Lahore High Court, which raised eye-brows across the world. According to political analysts, India is cognizant of growing US pressure for the resumption of the peace process, and wants its relations with Pakistan to start returning to normalcy soon, because it would not like the normalization process to be perceived as a Washington-driven initiative. “India is keen to put the Indo-Pak talks on track before the upcoming visit of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the sub-continent next month,” analysts opine and Manmohan-Zardari meeting in Moscow could prove the icebreaker for their revival. According to reports, India and Pakistan had come very close to a major breakthrough on Kashmir in 2007 before Gen Musharraf ran into political problems, which eventually forced him to step down.