Where Is Kashmir, Ask Pakistani Media

16 July 2009
The Hindu

Islamabad: The true import of the India-Pakistan joint statement following the meeting of the Prime Ministers of the two countries in Sharm-el-Sheikh seemed not to have sunk in fully here yet, with immediate reactions tending to pick instead on why there was no mention of Kashmir in the joint statement. As evident from the statement, India has made several significant shifts, including an agreement to continue with the composite dialogue format against the earlier thinking that a new framework was required for engaging with Pakistan post-26-11. Most importantly, there was an agreement that terrorism and talks must be delinked. Common threat India also accepted that terrorism was a threat to both countries, an important change of language from earlier formulations, in which it was always Pakistan committing that it would not allow its territory to be used for terrorist acts against India. But television channels here, either due to a lack of complete information or a full understanding, focussed mainly on the absence of any reference to Kashmir, although a few talking heads did point out that this was one of the subjects in the eight-subject composite dialogue process, which both sides had agreed to continue. Media commentators also flagged as suspicious the absence of any mention of a timeframe within which the dialogue would begin. At least one questioned why the two Prime Ministers are not meeting in September on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, and why the talks would be at the Foreign Secretary level, apparently unaware that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not attending the New York event. Some television anchors also stressed that Pakistan’s concerns about the alleged Indian hand in the Pakistani province of Balochistan and in its tribal areas had not been adequately reflected in the joint statement, even though this is the first time that “threats in Balochistan and other areas” figures in a joint statement between the two countries. But as and when the real significance of the joint statement is realised in Pakistan, it is bound to be seen here not just as a diplomatic coup, but also as a political victory for Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, especially in comparison with the sorry figure President Asif Ali Zardari cut in Yekaterinburg, when he was confronted with the now famous “limited mandate” statement by the Indian Prime Minister in the full glare of the media.