Dead in the water

The slow grinding down of negotiations between India and Pakistan shows how deeply ingrained is the mistrust that separates the two countries. But this mentality effectively precludes making that leap of imagination or trust without which deadlocks cannot be broken.*

Prem Shankar JhaPolitical leaders seldom concede failure. One has to look no further than the mess in Iraq to see this. But in a less spectacular way, this is also true of the leaders of Pakistan and India. For behind the polite assurances of goodwill and scheduling of further meetings, the India-Pakistan peace initiative is now dead in the water.

The high point of the initiative was reached when prime minister Manmohan Singh met president Musharraf in New York in September. Dr Singh assured Gen. Musharraf that India would consider virtually any solution that did not involve a redrawing of boundaries in Kashmir. He apparently explained that a change of boundaries would amount to a second partition of the country on religious lines and could easily upset the social balance in the country. Gen. Musharraf apparently promised to get back to him with concrete suggestions. Both emerged looking relaxed and relieved.

Since then, however, things have gone steadily downhill. Prior to foreign minister Kasuri's visit in early October, India submitted a 72-point agenda for confidence building. A little later this was pared down to 30 points. Pakistan agreed to examine the proposals, but has not responded to them, till this day.

Despite the bonhomie in New York, foreign minister Kasuri's visit also did not do much to unfreeze the deadlock over Kashmir Pakistan foreign secretary Riaz Khokar, who preceded Kasuri by a few days, met Hurriyat leaders from both camps and others from Kashmir in Delhi, and briefed Kasuri that many of them were adamantly opposed to the bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad because any such 'concession' would reduce alienation in Kashmir and would therefore strengthen the case for a settlement based upon the status quo.