Difficult Outlook for India-Pakistan Talks

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal 

The Times of India reported today that India and Pakistan may try to rekindle peace talks in early February.

The paper says Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi could meet his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, informally after a regional meeting in Bhutan on Feb. 8.

The report suggests that the idea is to set the ground rules for an official visit to India by Mr. Qureshi sometime later this year in a bid to normalize relations that have soured since a major terror attack in Mumbai in 2008.

Given the disastrous outcome of Mr. Krishna’s last formal visit to Pakistan – in July of last year – those ground rules will be important.

At that meeting, Mr. Qureshi became incensed during a press conference over India’s claims that Pakistan’s military intelligence services had orchestrated the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, during which 10 Pakistani gunmen killed more than 160 people over three days.

Mr. Krishna arrived back in India to criticism of being made to look a fool by Mr. Qureshi and a peace talks process begun in 2004 was put on hold amid mutual recriminations. The slow-moving (and now stalled) dialogue is an attempt to normalize relations that have been rocky ever since the two nations were created out of British India in 1947.

India has stuck to its claims of official Pakistan involvement in the Mumbai attacks and says Islamabad is not doing enough to prosecute the perpetrators and rein in India-focused militants in general.

Pakistan retorts that it is committed to fighting terrorism. It also has called on India to broaden the agenda for peace talks to include other topics, such as the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, which both countries claim in its entirety.

It is uncertain whether talks at this stage can produce anything meaningful

India is set against any wider peace talks until Pakistan sentences seven militants that it has charged for involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

But the atmosphere in Pakistan right now means it is unlikely that any politician will want to be seen vigorously cracking down on Islamist groups.

The killing earlier this month of Salmaan Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, by one of his own police guards has uncovered the extent to which hardline religious views have permeated many layers of society.

The police guard admitted he was angered by Mr. Taseer’s defense of a Christian woman sentenced to death by a Pakistani court in November for blasphemy.

In recent days, scores of Pakistanis, including lawyers and clerics, have publicly rallied in support of the police officer.

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    • neel123
    • January 21st, 2011

    There will be talk, and many more talks, but nothing will come out of the talks as long as terrorism remains an instrument of foreign policy of the Pakistani Army ….. !
    Under no circumstance will India be cowed down by Pakistani Army’s black mail.

    Pakistani Army has to realize that a moth eaten, terrorist ridden, and economically bankrupt Pakistan can not have its way through immoral means …. !

  1. Neel you are right. I hate to admit it! I dont see a 100% buy-in by all elements in Pakistan’s structure, be it the army, govt, intelligence agency, or even the policeman!

    When the man assigned to protect you is your killer, then you know this is Pakistan! Sad but true. The Pak Army needs to see that fundamentalism is Pakistan’s main enemy. Not India, Afghanistan, Russia, US or anyone to but radical Islam will be the one to test Pakistan’s sovereignty as a state.

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