January 12, 2004
NEW DELHI AND ISLAMABAD 'BREAK THE ICE'
** Outlets outside the
subcontinent see "solid ground for optimism" after the SAARC summit.
** Indian dailies welcome
the "goodwill and real sense" from both sides.
** Pakistani dailies
endorse SAARC's vision of a South Asia "free from tension and
** Indian critics slam
"premature" optimism; Pakistani rightists reject any Kashmir
The 'mutually destructive, nuclear-armed enmity' can end-- A Philippine observer who hailed the
"progress toward normal diplomatic relations" was one of many
analysts to express "cautious optimism." Britain's conservative Daily Telegraph
hoped the India/Pakistan thaw "will at least move each side irrevocably
back from the horror of a nuclear exchange." Several dailies noted that Musharraf must
"contain Islamic anti-government forces" and "dry up the stream
of extremists" that oppose better relations with India.
Musharraf avoids the 'old Kashmir-is-the-core-issue chant'-- Indian dailies generally backed the
"progress on the bilateral front."
They endorsed SAARC's "economic, political and social" focus
and credited Musharraf "for dealing with vital issues independent of the
K-word." Centrist Ajir Asom
hailed "a new beginning of Indo-Pak friendship and brotherhood." Other dailies cited "Musharraf's
realization that the fire of terrorism can singe oneself" to explain what
left-of-center Maharashtra Times termed his "changed political
stance, manifest in the unilateral cease-fire offer" and his promise to
The two sides should 'show flexibility and avoid pointless
rhetoric'-- Moderate Pakistani
writers praised the "sense of realism and a shared vision" at the
SAARC summit. The centrist News
opined: "For too long,
normalization has been hostage to a final solution in Kashmir." But since Kashmir is of "immense
emotional concern," warned populist Khabrain, "without
resolving bilateral issues" (e.g. Kashmir), SAARC cannot become "a
regional bloc on the global stage."
Leading Jang urged Kashmir die-hards to "realize the need of
the hour," saying Musharraf's posture "may not be the best...but one
has to adopt it."
'Kashmir has existential significance'-- Both within and outside of South Asia, papers
predicted a "long road is still ahead" given the "varied
bilateral problems." Canada's
conservative National Post said it is "hard to imagine either side
making substantive concessions."
Indian pessimists lacked "confidence in Pakistan and its
leadership"; with the centrist Times of India calling for
"cautious optimism rather than excessive anticipation." Pakistani rejectionists opposed any
"unilateral concessions," alleging that India's "trap of
talks" may lead to a "betrayal" of Kashmir. Pro-Taliban Islam declared: "Unless India reconsiders its policy
towards Kashmir...any dialogue between Pakistan and India is just a waste of
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: This
analysis was based on 53 reports from 17 countries over 5 - 12 January
2004. Editorial excerpts from each
nation are listed from the most recent date.
An editorial in the centrist Times of India read
(1/9): "Indo-Pak camaraderie is
certainly worth celebrating, and more so because it is that rarity that comes
interspersed with extended periods of open hostility. However, for that very
reason, it is best that both sides understand the difference between hope and
hype. Cautious optimism rather than excessive anticipation is the key to
building mutual confidence. The Islamabad meet was significant, especially in
the context of the tacit Pakistani admission on terrorism. The concession
obviously comes from a man who has, in quick succession, twice escaped falling
to the terrorist gun. This, if anything, underscores the fragile nature of the
ongoing process, and the need all the more to avoid hyperbole of the kind that
builds up impossible expectations. What matters is where the two sides go from
this point. To agree to a dialogue is the easy part. The difficult part will
come later when the talks start to meander in the direction of Kashmir. By now
it is clear that the Atal-Pervez meet was propelled by more than just
good-neighborly vibes. Even if prime minister Jamali insists he will not name
names, we know who he means when he says 'the peace process was facilitated by
other countries.' General Musharraf is
under enormous pressure--as much from the jehadis as from Washington--and a
single wrong step could mean things going pear-shaped. For his sake and that of
the neighbors, let's hope that he can take the peace process forward come
"From Islamabad, With Care"
Saaed Naqvi noted in the centrist Indian Express
(1/9): "It is quite extraordinary
how Vajpayee's stature as a statesman has grown in the international arena.
Even in quarters in Islamabad generally tardy in giving India credit,
Vajpayee's Srinagar speech on April 18 is seen as the starting point of this
entire process. Musharraf also rose to the occasion, despite the hesitations of
his bureaucracy. His personal supervision determined the tone of the draft
after his meeting with Vajpayee whose concerns on "terrorism", Musharraf
grasped, were the key to progress on all issues including Kashmir. Since January 1, National Security Advisor
Brajesh Mishra had been working towards an agreed draft. It was only after the
Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting that firm instructions were given out to Pakistani
officials to work towards a balanced document. It is now clear that key
negotiations were conducted by Mishra and Aziz, while Javed was drawn in for
'critical phrases'. While the India
specific commitment is total, it also gives Musharraf room to integrate it into
the global war against terrorism. He said at his press conference that
Pakistani territory will never be allowed 'for terrorism anywhere in the
world'. Ending the use of territory
under Pakistan's control for terrorism, more CBMs, preliminary contacts to
structure the composite dialogue by mid February will obviously proceed almost
simultaneously. Composite dialogue, once it gets going, may be guided by the
Brajesh Mishra-Tariq Aziz duet. An
important message from Islamabad is Musharraf's response to a reporter's
question. 'Now that you are turning your back on 56 years of misgivings, can it
now be said that friendship with India is part of your strategic doctrine?' The
president paused, then emphatically: "Of course".
"Well Done, Mr. PM"
The nationalist Hindustan Times editorialized (1/8): "Vajpayee's third and final attempt, to
use his own words, to achieve peace with Pakistan appears to be
succeeding.... A resumption of talks is
not usually hyped up in such a manner, especially by a military man. But, perhaps, the Pakistani president and
army chief has learnt a lesson both from his Kargil misadventure and the recent
attacks on his life in his own country....
But if General Musharraf is a wiser (though not necessarily sadder) man today,
Vajpayee has proved the old adage: if at first you don't succeed, try, try, try
again.... This time, his chances of
success are much better. There are two
reasons for this. One is General Musharraf's realization that the fire of
terrorism can singe oneself, and the other is the groundswell of public opinion
in both countries in favor of peace....
The pressure of public opinion is bound to propel the two leaders
towards a settlement.... A major credit
for this remarkable turnaround has to go to Vajpayee. He has confirmed an old
belief that the best chances of peace are provided by a far-sighted BJP leader
in India and a responsive military man in Pakistan."
"Scope Of Goodwill"
Independent Calcutta-based Bengali-language Ananda Bazar
Patrika said (1/8): "The SAARC
forum at Islamabad has turned to be highly beneficial both for Musharraf and
Vajpayee. True, it is not possible that a half-a-century old problem would be
solved overnight. It is also true that the saga of breach of faith as well as
deviation from commitment in the history of the subcontinent's politics and
state-policy is more checkered than the heritage of trust and faithfulness. So,
it is necessary to remain alert. The time has not come to take a nap by doing
away with security vigil. However, domestic urge of both the nations and the
international agenda of the unipolar world too theoretically bear testimony to
the inevitability of Indo-Pak friendship. The shadow of the US, the global
superpower, is also clearly visible on Islamabad's peace track. But there is
nothing objectionable in it. It is good if the journey toward peace really
"Success Of SAARC Summit More Than Expected"
Guwahati-based Assamese-language centrist Ajir Asom
maintained (1/8): "In may ways, the
success of the SAARC Summit in Islamabad is remarkable.... India has its own reason to rejoice over this
achievement as the man behind the creation of this success story is none other
than.... Vajpayee.... The historic achievement of the summit is
that the two countries have agreed to start bilateral deliberations on the
Kashmir issue.... Everybody is hoping
that this move will act as a conduit to normalizing the relations between the
two nations and to creating an environment of peace in the region.... Besides Vajpayee, Musharraf should also be
credited for the success. By keeping the Kashmir issue out of the purview of
discussion in the Summit and promising to check terrorist elements using
Pakistan's soil to initiate anti-India activities Musharaff has taken a stand
India has been seeking for long. The
success of the SAARC Summit has inspired moderate Kashmiris as well as common
people of both India and Pakistan. Let's hope that SAARC Summit in Islamabad
will usher in a new beginning of Indo-Pak friendship and
"Will They Keep Their Words?"
Pro-BJP Urdu-language Pratap held (1/8): "Like others, we are also happy at the
conclusion of the recent SAARC summit on a positive note, especially the
progress made to improve relations between India and Pakistan. However, rather
than allowing ourselves to be overtaken by the euphoria, we would prefer to
watch what comes next. This is important that the past experience does not give
mush confidence to trust Pakistan and its leadership. Even General Musharraf is
not known for keeping words and implementing his announcements sincerely. India
has to be satisfied before taking next concrete step toward normalizing
relations with Pakistan that the promise made by President Musharraf about
ending terrorism against India is substantiated with results. This is all the
more important in view of reports from Pakistan suggesting that the lenient
position taken by Musharraf on Kashmir this time does not match the common
"Hope In The Winter Wind"
The centrist Indian Express opined (1/7): "The SAARC summit brings new hope and
promise of significant change.... The
successful summit and the agreements have been welcomed across the world.... While the summit arrived at landmark
agreements on economic and social issues, the political success of the summit
does great credit to the states and their leaders. Few would have expected that
much progress in view of the difficult relations between Pakistan and India who
went almost to war two years ago. Islamabad deserves credit for dealing with
vital issues independent of the K-word. Both India and Pakistan have also
bilaterally confirmed a cooperative vision for the future. The leaders of the
seven countries have firmly committed themselves to eliminating terrorism 'in
all its forms and manifestations.'
Bhutan's cooperation in the elimination of terrorism from its territory
against a neighbor not only came in for special mention, but also provides the
model for the region to implement the promises made in Islamabad.... The summit has also opened the route to
dialogue between India and Pakistan and what the two make of this would depend
upon how seriously they invest the process with sincerity and
dedication.... The process of
normalization between the two key players, which started last April, has
received a degree of stimulus from the summit. This may well be the last
opportunity, not just for Vajpayee, but for cooperative peace between Pakistan
The Bangalore-based left-of-center English-language Deccan
Herald stated (1/7): "The
objectives of the Islamabad Declaration issued at the end of the summit will
best be realized only if bilateral relations between India and Pakistan
improve. The Declaration and the agreement of the member-countries to eliminate
terrorism in their region and work for setting up a free trade area have the
potential to change the economic, political and social status of the entire
region. They mark the realization among the member countries that unity and
complementarity are the pre-requisites of growth and that there is a shared
destiny for the people of all countries of the region. Progress on the
bilateral front between India and Pakistan and at the collective level within
the regional forum is bound to be slow but commitment to the ideal of a common
future will keep forward movement steady and purposeful."
Mumbai-based left-of-center Marathi-language Loksatta
commented (1/7): "Pakistani
President General Pervez Musharraf has openly recommended the utilization of
the SAARC podium for discussing bilateral issues between India and
Pakistan. However, this will necessitate
an amendment of SAARC's constitution which will be obviously unacceptable to
India. Pakistan should therefore not
insist on the exploitation of SAARC to thrash out the Kashmir issue. Instead it should now come forward to
consolidate the confidence-building measures which are just beginning to make
an impact on the two estranged neighbors....
India and Pakistan can normalize their ties only when the latter stops
cross-border insurgency directed against India.
When the snow begins to melt in the coming summer, Pakistan will have to
prove its peacemaking claims by curbing the infiltration of militants into
India from across the Indo-Pakistani border. Pakistan should take inspiration
from a small country like Bhutan which has executed an exemplary drive against
the terrorist outfits operating from its soil against India.... It is quite premature to conclude if Pakistan
can become a stable friend of India, but the SAARC summit has once again
brought home the need for a dialogue as a means for conflict resolution."
Calcutta-based centrist Urdu-language Azad Hind observed
(1/6): "The SAARC summit is going
through such a...way that gives indication in advance that the member nations
are keen on sorting out the problems among themselves. Among all the member
countries the relation between India and Pakistan has been most bitter. But
presently the two are showing goodwill and real sense in the best possible
way.... This cannot be said that
meetings between the heads of state were merely routine and customary and talks
between them centered around exchange of good wishes only.... After all, the SAARC conference is advancing
towards success step by step and one can hope that an atmosphere of happiness,
unity, friendship and prosperity will come up in this corner of the world
"Vajpayee Should Sit With Musharraf In Islamabad"
Guwahati-based Assamese-language left-of-center Aji opined
(1/6): "Vajpayee's Islamabad visit
would be incomplete if the Kashmir issue is left untouched. For, Vajpayee's
trip to Islamabad after such a long period of animosity has created an aura of
hope among common people in the country. The hope is primarily centered around
Kashmir.... Noticeably, Musharraf has
also softened his otherwise inflexible stand.
Meanwhile, the cease-fire on the LOC is firmly on the place. These few
positive developments indicate the possibility of normalization of ties between
the two countries.... Although the
opinions of Kashmiri people can not be overlooked still India and Pakistan hold
the keys to resolve the Kashmir imbroglio. Now that these two countries are
expressively talking about compromises they should adopt it as a long-term
policy in their quest to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir problem."
"The Snow Begins To Thaw"
Mumbai-based left-of-center Marathi-language Maharashtra Times
held (1/6): "Prime Minister
Vajpayee's much-anticipated meeting with Pakistani President General Musharraf
did ultimately take place on the sidelines of the SAARC summit underway in
Islamabad. It is welcome that both the
countries have shown willingness to break the ice, though what transpired at the
meeting between the two leaders is not known.
The meeting carries greater significance because it was the first since
the failed Agra summit of the year 2001 after which relations between New Delhi
and Islamabad hit an all-time low....
Vajpayee's `courtesy call' on Musharraf has the potential to straighten
the stormy relationship between the two estranged neighbors. However, it will be possible only when
Pakistan takes an active interest in curbing cross-border terrorism that has
ruined India's peace for many years....
Unlike in the past, Pakistan didn't raise the Kashmir issue during the
ongoing SAARC summit.... Pakistan's
changed political stance, manifest in the unilateral ceasefire offer, can be
attributed to its fear of meeting the fate that befell the Taliban and later
Saddam Hussein. If its sponsorship of
terrorist activities against India is not curbed sooner, Pakistan runs the risk
of being declared a state sponsor of terrorism. The American military action,
post 9/11, in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to have prodded Pakistan to begin to do
away with its image as a country that abets terrorism."
"Two Alone, Three Together"
The centrist Indian Express maintained (1/6): "At first blush, the atmospherics in
Islamabad are heartening. Vajpayee eschewed any direct mention of cross-border
terrorism that cold have set off a familiar domino effect of Pakistani
counter-accusations. Instead, he
stressed the need to bury petty rivalries and cash in on the peace dividend. In tandem, Pakistani Prime Minister Jamali
refrained from reciting that old Kashmir-is-the core-issue chant. He too
pointed to the larger achievements of the SAARC summit by reckoning that
greater economic integration is crucial to the creation of a political climate
of peace and stability.... It is taking
all those attributes for Vajpayee to extend this season of hope. Therein lies cause for cheer. In step with the opportunities offered by the
timing of the SAARC meet and the comfort zone of wider regional pacts, an
Indo-Pak matrix for cooperation and dialogue is being assembled. Cooperation
and dialogue have acquired muscle as much with consensus on a South Asian Free
Trade Area and Social Charter as with the promise of more cordial, less hyped
meetings between Indian and Pakistani leaders and officials. It would not take a game theorist to show
that peace is not a zero-sum game.
Certainly, Vajpayee hinted as much when he advised the region to be
guided by history."
"The Most Important Conference"
Calcutta-based centrist Urdu-language Azad Hind declared
(1/5): "The SAARC conference...does
have special significance this year because the whole world is running through
fearful confusion and shadow of terrorism. Some parts of the world are under
real terrorist threats whereas in some other parts a terror-stricken atmosphere
is being created through false propaganda that some big powers are making an
instrument for mass killings and running havoc.
Afghanistan and Iraq have been attacked and devastated in the most
fraudulent way and it is an irony that the destroyers of these two countries
are never tired of telling continuously that they did a great service to
mankind through their actions. It has yet not been proven who were the real
attackers of the World Trade Center in New
York on 9/11.... On the other
hand they ravaged Iraq on the pretext of WMD.... The present SAARC conference is, perhaps,
being held in the most congenial atmosphere ever. It is sure that the resolutions being taken
in this meeting would not be taped in files only but would be acted
upon.... It seems the period of hatred,
enmity and bitterness is at an end and that of love, friendship and sweetness
is on the cards."
PAKISTAN: "Great Leap
Shafqat Mahmood wrote in the centrist national English-language News
(1/9): "For too long, normalization
has been hostage to a final solution in Kashmir or lately to the stopping of
what the Indians call cross-border terrorism.
There will always be issues among neighbors; some more intractable than
others. Thte trick is to build on the
positives and discuss the negatives until a solution is found. The composite dialogue in February should
proceed within this framework. The
doable must be done immediately."
"To The Critics"
Irshad Ahmad Haqqani held in leading mass-circulation
Urdu-language Jang (1/9): "I
would like to request of the opponents of the recent Indo-Pak agreement that
they realize the need of the hour and derive lessons from the
circumstances. The posture adopted by President
Musharraf may not be the best strategy, but one has to adopt it in the interest
of the country. The quarters which
believe that whatever is happening is happening under the pressure of the U.S.
for achieving its own vested interests are not informed about the actual
realities. They should realize that it's
not in the interest of the U.S. that India and Pakistan resolve their disputes
and come closer."
The centrist national English-language News declared
(1/8): "It is difficult to recall
any period in the history of the two neighbors when there was no major problem
dividing them, there is no reason why they should not set their goal at
achieving zero differences. Half a
century's experience must have taught them that they can neither wish away
their common problems nor can wars and threats erase the difficulties.... The proposed talks that reopen next month,
therefore, will be crucial for the economic well-being of over a billion people
who live in the two countries.... The
Pakistan government, however, will do well to involve the nation in its
preparations for the talks. The position
it intends to adopt in the dialogue requires popular backing, as only then will
our leaders be able to speak from a position of strength. The issue of Kashmir is of immense emotional
concern to the people and its final resolution, therefore, must satisfy
"No Secret Deal!"
The Islamabad-based rightist English-language Pakistan Observer
held (1/8): "Whatever the
situation, mystery shrouds the circumstances that led to the signing of the
agreement for resumption of the stalled talks between the two countries. The President owes it to the nation to remove
the apprehensions. General Musharraf's
assurance that the Kashmiri leaders will be briefed about the development is
welcome, since the dispute pertains to the future of the Kashmiri people. It is, therefore, logical that their leaders
are kept informed about the progress on the issue. The Kashmiri leaders on both sides of the
Line of Control have lauded the agreement for initiating composite dialogue
between India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir and other bilateral
"End Of SAARC Conference, Islamabad Declaration And Joint
Pro-Taliban Urdu-language Islam opined (1/8): "During the SAARC Conference it was
clear who benefitted and whose policies dominated. It is obviously India who enjoyed success
during the summit.... India's agreement
to start a dialogue is a success and in return Pakistan may retreat from its claim
on Kashmir. India never takes a single
step unless its demands are met. Brijesh
Mishra's statement that future combined efforts against terrorists are possible
shows what Pakistan got out of it."
"Indo-Pak Composite Dialogue And The Kashmir Issue"
An editorial in second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt
read (1/8): "Although President
Musharraf has assured the nation that there has been no secret deal on Kashmir,
the signing of the SAARC Additional Protocol is tantamount to burying the
Kashmir issue for good."
The centrist national English-language News declared
(1/7): "PM Atal Behari Vajpayee
demonstrated a high level of statesmanship when he acquiesced to reopening a
dialogue on the Kashmir issue. Such a
constructive approach on both sides accompanied by a readiness to make
concessions will succeed in overcoming the most formidable
"Dialogue At Last"
Karachi-based center-left national independent English-language Dawn
held (1/7): "The people of South
Asia, and the entire world, expect the two governments to maintain the momentum
toward peace.... Given a sense of
realism and a shared vision--the vision of a South Asia free from tension and
conflict--Pakistan and India can make it.
The Musharraf-Vajpayee summit proves that a meeting of minds is possible
if the two sides show flexibility and avoid pointless rhetoric."
"SAARC: What Pakistan
Gained Or Lost"
Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt maintained
(1/7): "Pakistan's agreement on
holding composite dialogue with India means that the Kashmir issue would be
taken up after a long delay; God forbid the issue might not be taken up at
all. India has a good deal of experience
in laying the trap of talks and consigning issues to cold storage.... Such a solution of the Kashmir dispute could
be imposed which would be in conflict with the interests of Kashmiris and
Pakistanis and betrayal of the sacrifices made by Kashmiris."
What Is The Outcome?"
Pro-Taliban Urdu-language Islam stated (1/7): "The expectations from the long-awaited
meeting of Musharraf and Vajpayee could not come true. It does not look as if there is any basic
change to solve the disputes. Indian
officials also clarified that the time frame for real Indo-Pak dialogues is not
possible at the present. Unless India
reconsiders its policy towards Kashmir, peace is not possible in the
region. Pakistan must clarify that
unless a permanent and peaceful settlement of Kashmir is finalized, any
dialogue between Pakistan and India is just a waste of time."
"Looming From The Sidelines"
The center-right English-language Nation
editorialized (1/6): "There has
been an indication that the meetings might generate more CBMs. Those that have come so far have not done
more than restore the status quo before December 2001, when India unilaterally
tried to pull a fast one under cover of the post-9/11 international
atmosphere. There must be no more
unilateral concessions until India shows it is serious about solving the
Kashmir issue in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people."
"Line Of Control: Permanent Border"
Aftab Iqbal wrote in second-largest
Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt (1/6):
"Now we come to the magic formula that, according to our personal
information, Washington has suggested seriously and to some extent sternly to
resolve the Kashmir dispute.... The
formula says that we either except the LoC as the permanent border or be
prepared to change the entire shape of Kashmir, including the valley, Jammu,
Laddakh and Pakistan's northern areas into some sort of Aga-Khanistan for 10 or
20 years.... Whether President Musharraf
is right or wrong, he himself had said during the APNS forum that making the
Line of Control (LoC) the permanent border would create permanent conflict. To put the historical stand on Kashmir aside
would be treason."
"First Kashmir And Then Economic Union And
Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt
declared (1/6): "Vajpayee has met
General Musharraf. Sheikh Rashid (Info.
Minister) has said that more meetings are expected. It means that back channel diplomacy is at
work and America wants to achieve quick results.... If the desire for SAARC success and economic
cooperation are really bilateral then in order to achieve the two goals the
Kashmir dispute should be resolved in keeping with the UN resolutions."
"SAARC Conference And Chances of Progress
In The Region"
Lahore's populist Urdu-language Khabrain
stated (1/6): "The one-on-one
meeting between PM Jamali and PM Vajpayee, followed by the announcement of a
similar meeting between President Musharraf and PM Vajpayee, signals an
improvement in the regional climate....
While efforts are being made for regional cooperation, the atmosphere
can improve further if bilateral issues are also resolved. Without resolving bilateral issues, it will
be impossible (for SAARC) to rise as a regional bloc on the global stage."
BRITAIN: "Composite Resolution"
The left-of-center Guardian noted (1/7): "There has rarely been such solid ground
for optimism that a long and sorry saga of mutually destructive, nuclear-armed
enmity can at last be brought to a close....
To give him credit, Gen.Musharraf has come a long way since Kargil in
1999. Kashmir doubtless remains close to
his heart. But the need for peace grows
more pressing. Mr. Vajpayee agrees. All in south Asia, and beyond, will hope they
"India And Pakistan Step Back From The Brink"
The conservative Daily Telegraph observed (1/7): "India and Pakistan announced they would
resume peace talks next month. The
decision comes as the climax to a series of confidence-building measures that have
included the gradual reopening of direct transport links, the exchange of
ambassadors and the launching of a ceasefire in the disputed territory of
Kashmir.... The enthusiastic reception
accorded to yesterday's statement suggests there is widespread popular support
for a peace process which, if not bringing a Kashmiri settlement, will at least
move each side irrevocably back from the horror of a nuclear exchange."
The conservative Times declared (1/5): "An easing of tension has brought
substantial benefits not only to India and Pakistan but to their neighbours and
expatriates.... A transition from
mistrust to trust, as Mr. Vajpayee demanded, could make possible a range of
regional integration agreements that might give South Asia--a fifth of the
world population--the cohesion that the Association of South-East Asian Nations
(Asean) sometimes enjoys. And for Delhi,
there is one overriding aim: stability on its borders and growth in its region
would help it to compete with the giant in Asia and rival for influence:
China. For Delhi, the Kashmir dispute
cannot be settled too soon."
Pierre Rousselin noted in right-of-center Le Figaro
(1/6): “Between India and Pakistan, the
risk of a nuclear incident is too serious to neglect the slightest hint of a
possible reconciliation.... President
Musharraf and India’s Prime Minister met yesterday for the first time since
July 2001. Their rapprochement at the time did not survive the wave of
terrorist attacks that followed.... As
in 2001, Musharraf and Vajpayee are each having to deal with extremists who are
staunchly opposed to concessions. This time the two leaders may have a better
chance of success. First, because the U.S. has, since 9/11, moved closer to
India. It has also exercised constant pressure on Pakistan to get it to
cooperate in the fight against al-Qaida and against Kashmir’s Islamic
extremists.... The more vulnerable of
the two is obviously Musharraf.... Aside
from his vulnerability on the domestic front, he needs to improve his image on
the international scene. All the more so since Libya’s nuclear
agreement.... While it is in the best
interest of the U.S. to maintain Pakistan’s stability, peace in Kashmir may be
Musharraf’s best insurance policy. And Vajpayee’s best trump card for re-election.”
Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine observed (1/6): "Since April of last year the relations
between India and Pakistan have seemed to improve. The prospects for a
permanent détente have never been so good as at the moment. But actually
nothing has happened yet. The current progress is mainly atmospheric. Now the
problems start. There are serious
differences of opinion, e.g. concerning the eternal conflict issue Kashmir,
which means a lot of prestige for both sides.
But that is exactly what they have to talk about. The Indian government seems to have concluded
that its electorate is not interested in playing the muscleman with
Pakistan. Vajpayee wants to be
re-elected as a peace politician. But
will his power be sufficient to stay on course when extremists start killing
again? Will Musharraf continue to
believe in détente if Islamists realize that Kashmir is 'lost' for
"Voyage To Pakistan"
Ruth Ciesinger wrote in centrist Tagesspiegel (1/5): "President Musharraf has officially
withdrawn support for Islamists; also responding to the pressure of the U.S. He
also does not call for a final resolution of the Kashmir conflict as a
condition for better relations to India. But the question is whether he can
succeed at home. The extremists in Pakistan cause Musharraf serious problems.
Only they attempted two assasinations last month. Muslim clans and tribal
leaders dominate the border with Afghanistan; the central power has no
influence there. To a certain extent
Musharraf can only cooperate with Islamists. The international community must
be clear about this if it wants to mediate in the Kashmir conflict. First of all comes the U.S. Washington and Islamabad have been close
since the beginning of the Cold War. Pakistan was seen as the 'frontier state'
against communism and received corresponding support. Through it America has
contributed to the military armament of the country to a considerable extent. The relations cooled down after the end of
the East-West conflict but they warmed up again since Pakistan is fighting in
the front line against international terrorism.
Washington could not have waged war against the Taliban in Afghanistan
without the support of Pakistan. And now the United States is interested in
stabilizing Kashmir, as the crisis regions of the Middle East and North Korea
demand all the attention. For that not only pressure on President Musharraf is
necessary. Democratizing Pakistan should be supported and the quality of life
should be improved to dry up the stream of extremists. In regard to Islamists, the situation in the
neighboring state of Afghanistan is also decisive. If a stable political system
is established where terror groups can be up to their mischief, it will affect
the extremists in the border region of Pakistan. In this respect, even the mission of the
German army contributes to the resolution of the Kashmir conflict."
RUSSIA: "Pakistan Wins
Sergei Strokan commented in reformist business-oriented Kommersant
(1/9): "The first meeting between
the Indian leader and Pakistani President Pervaiz Musharraf in the last two
years has already been described as historical and paving the way to the
normalization of relations between the two South Asian countries.... The main result of the meeting in New Delhi
is believed to be the Pakistani leader's statement that his country would not
be used for support of so-called transborder terrorism in Kashmir that has been
divided between the two countries. Another important result is the agreement to
resume top-level bilateral political dialogue, a new round of which will be
held in February."
AUSTRIA: “When Peace Hangs
By A Thread”
Thomas Vieregge commented in centrist Die Presse (1/8): “The Indian-Pakistani summit in Islamabad and
the meeting of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf and India’s Prime Minister
A.B. Vajpayee might have created unrealistic expectations. Indeed, the two
statesmen have come a long way, especially rebel General Musharraf, but they
also have a long road still ahead of them. Whether they will go down in history
as the peacemakers in the region, maybe even as Nobel peace prize winners,
which is what 79-year old Vajpayee might be hoping for, is going to depend on
many factors--for instance, on whether Pakistan will succeed in stemming
extremism, and whether the Indian and Pakistani negotiators will be able to use
what little time they have before the Indian parliamentary elections in the
spring, which is also when the snow begins to melt in Kashmir. It remains to be
seen whether the language of violence will not flare up again at that point,
and whether the peace signals of winter can survive in this atmosphere.”
HUNGARY: “In The Mountains”
Leading Hungarian-language Nepszabadsag editorialized
(1/5): "I don’t want to overstate
it but if the leaders of two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, have been able
to sit down for negotiations then anybody else should be able to do the same. A
consensus, or at least the clear indication of intent, is today the entry
ticket to the international community.
And it is not the standpoint of the U.S. alone. There isn’t a single country in the world
today which would find a serious ally wanting to encourage a particular country’s
impatient ambitions against others. If there is anything to lose today it is to
seek permanent conflicts. Because for decades permanent conflicts brought money
and horses....or, lacking that, at least weapons. But today it is the permanent
conflicts that ‘turn off’ the taps.” India seriously feels its effects already.
Pakistan, if fails to integrate [with the international community], it will not
go very far either. But the perspective
is still different [viewed from] the mountains.”
IRELAND: "India And
The center-left Irish Times commented (1/6): "The meeting between Indian and
Pakistani leaders yesterday in Islamabad can set the scene for a much greater
commitment to build an effective peace process between the two states. Both the
Indian prime minister...and the president of Pakistan, General Pervez
Musharraf, made upbeat assessments of the encounter ahead of their meeting on
the fringes of a south Asian summit meeting devoted mainly to economic
co-operation. This is welcome indeed after the dangerous escalation of tension
over Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed states in May and June 2002.... In recent weeks it has been announced that
air, rail and bus links between the Indian and Pakistani administered parts of
Kashmir are being reopened. These confidence-building measures feed into
preliminary diplomatic contacts between the two states in which it is reported
the Pakistanis are ready to drop their long-standing demand that a United
Nations plebiscite be held on the political future of Kashmir. This summit will
today agree to introduce a free trade area between the seven states involved
from 2006, a wider umbrella for Indo-Pakistani economic co-operation. It is a
potentially significant decision, given south Asia's rapid economic development.... The two men are engaged in a risky pirouette
for reduced tension and a peace process. International encouragement is
important for their venture--and it will continue to be necessary given the
huge stakes involved."
Editor-in-Chief Jose Manuel Fernandes declared in influential
moderate-left Público (1/7):
"The first was the success of the Loyal Jirga.... [T]he evolution was gigantic.... For the first time in the history of the country
the government listened to the people and considered the proposed alterations
to the project it was presenting.... The
second was the announcement that India and Pakistan are going to discuss the
question of Kashmir in the next month...instead of threatening each
other.... The third is ... the first
visit of a Syrian chief of state to Turkey....
All these signals seem to indicate that in the immense Islamic arc that
goes from Morocco to Pakistan, things are changing. Moving.
And that these evolutions are positive or promising. Contrary to what so many prophets of doom and
Left-of-center El País opined (1/7): "If all its does is prevent the Kashmir
conflict from overheating, the Islamabad agreement will be a success.... What has been agreed is, as the protagonists
have said, a starting point, not an end....
During these days, the U.S. has revealed that Pakistan helped Libya and
North Korea on their respective nuclear programs. More than a war for Kashmir, what today makes
many strategists' hair stand on end is the possibility that.... Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could fall into
the hands of a radical Islamist regime....
Musharraf is the lesser of two evils and is probably the only
opportunity to channel the Kashmir dispute."
CHINA: "South Asia
Welcomes New Turning Point"
Chen Jihui commented in official Communist Party-run People's
Daily (Renmin Ribao)
(1/7): "As a region that
enjoys plentiful resources and a large labor force, the South Asian
Sub-Continent has great prospects for development and the potential to conduct
regional cooperation. If India and Pakistan can maintain the current mild
climate and dedicate themselves to regional economic development, along with a
step-by-step implementation of a South Asia Free Trade Agreement, it is
completely possible that South Asia could create a miracle of fast economic
growth, and contribute to world economic cooperation, trade expansion and peace
in the region. However, in
India-Pakistan relations, unstable factors such as the Kashmir issue still
exist, and this is the main barrier in the way of the two countries developing
normal relations.... The facts show that
it is common sense among South Asian Association member countries to realize
peace and promote development. The two
countries' joint devotion to develop long-term bilateral relations and economic
cooperation, based on positive and practical principles, not only conforms to
their own basic interests, but also the international community's common
expectation to maintain peace and prosperity in South Asia."
“Vajpayee Holds Hands With Musharraf: Indian And Pakistani Leaders Hold Their First
Meeting In Two Years”
Xu Bingchuan commented in official Beijing-based
Beijing Times (Jinghua Shibao) (1/6): “There are reasons why Vajpayee and Musharraf
are offering each other olive branches: first, they are being forced by pressure
from the international community, especially pressure from the U.S. Since the Cold War, the U.S. has treated
South Asia as an important link in its global strategy.... The U.S. worries that if the South Asia
situation spins out of control, this would influence its global anti-terror
strategy. It once again placed pressure
on India and Pakistan, urging the two countries to resume talks. Second, they are responding to the needs of
their domestic politics.... Third, The
Iraq war proves that war can only bring endless disaster to the Indian and
Pakistani people.... Fourth, Vajpayee
said many times that he hoped to see the two countries end their over fifty
years of hostility before he quits politics....
He hopes that this time, the last of his political career, his peaceful
efforts will achieve success.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Rivals Should Focus On Areas Of Mutual
The independent English-language South China Morning Post
remarked (1/9): "The early signs
were not encouraging as the South Asian regional summit began in Islamabad this
week. Although there was a breakthrough
in the works on the question of a seven-country free-trade zone, the region's
two most influential powers, India and Pakistan, denied speculation that there
would be any talks between their leaders on the sidelines of the meeting. Mutual enmity and nuclear rivalry between
these two South Asian giants is the biggest obstacle to stability and economic
progress in the region.... Both sides
will play down expectations for dramatic progress, especially on contentious
issues like Kashmir. Indeed, separatists
there have already vowed to keep fighting.
There will be a focus on resolution of smaller, less contentious issues
first. This is a strategy that has served India well in its relations with
China. An issue of mutual
interest--trade--has been promoted, while border disputes and other potential
conflicts have been downplayed. If this
formulation can be put to work in the interests of peace between the two most
influential countries in South Asia, the entire region stands to benefit."
"How Terrorism Made Friends Out Of
Uday Bhaskar wrote in the independent English-language South
China Morning Post (1/8): "What
were the factors that led to this dramatic breakthrough? While India has been consistently demanding
that Pakistan's military establishment stop supporting jihad terrorism directed
at India, General Musharraf sought a resolution of the core issue of Kashmir
and insisted that what India described as terrorism was an indigenous freedom
movement. However, following September
11, the focus shifted to Osama bin Laden, and General Musharraf's decision to become
a frontline ally of the U.S., angered many right-wing groups in Pakistan. The turbulence that ensued revealed the deep
inroads that jihad groups had made in Pakistani politics.... Mr. Vajpayee has outlined a vision for South
Asia that highlights the need for mutual co-operation to address the crushing
poverty and deprivation of the 1.5 billion people, while General Musharraf has
taken many bold internal decisions to address domestic strife and is determined
to cleanse Pakistan of its home-grown extremists. The contrast between the poet prime minister
and the commando general could not be more striking. But the meeting in Islamabad augurs well and
a sense of cautious optimism about the future of bilateral ties would not be
misplaced at this juncture."
Leaders’ Summit: Don’t Stop The
Moderate Tokyo Shimbun declared (1/8): “The leaders of both India and Pakistan have
agreed to reopen comprehensive talks that include the issue of Kashmir. Indo-Pakistani relations are closely linked
to the prospects for global peace. We
hope that both countries’ leaders intensify their efforts for stability in the
region.... They came to the brink of a
fourth war in 2001 when India’s parliament building was attacked. We want to praise this summit as a very
relevant historical discussion....
Solving the varied bilateral problems between the two countries won’t be
easy. But, ever since 1989, when unrest
began among Muslims inside Indian Kashmir, the victims of the Kashmir conflict
have surpassed 65,000. At the lower-level
talks next month, for the purpose of stopping the tragedy of the people of
Kashmir, through sincere interchanges that include Musharraf’s promise, we hope
that both countries can take a step forward to determine the permanent status
of this region. India and Pakistan’s
unstable “nuclear balance” is a major threat to the world’s safety. We strongly back the implementation of
concrete measures to reduce this sense of crisis. Pakistani extremist groups that oppose
President Musharraf’s policies have already tried to assassinate him
twice. In that sense, it is unacceptable
to allow the outcome of the summit to return to nothing more than an illusion
of hope. The 7-nation SAARC summit,
which became the stage for the leaders’ summit, set the goal of creating a
free-trade area within the next two years.
If economic exchange increases and grows more energetic, it will
contribute to improving the road to stability in the region."
"India And Pakistan Should Resume Dialogue"
Business-oriented Nihon Keizai observed (1/8): "Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan
have taken a giant step toward improving bilateral relations. We welcome the breakthrough agreement reached
between Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and Pakistani President Musharraf to
resume talks that could lead to the improvement of relations strained over
Kashmir and other disputes. Although the
outlook for a bilateral reconciliation may not necessarily be easy, both sides
should build up mutual confidence in order to achieve diplomatic normalization. The improvement of relations between India
and Pakistan is indispensable to the development of Southeast Asia. But there
are concerns over whether and how the Musharraf government can contain Islamic
anti-government forces strongly opposed to Pakistan's improvement of ties with
the US and India. This degree of opposition was illustrated by two attempts by
radicals to assassinate President Musharraf last month."
Beth D. Romulo wrote in the independent Manila Bulletin
(1/5): "Inch by inch we are seeing
progress toward normal diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan.... Much of this is due to the courageous efforts
of India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who appears to have made it a personal
mission to restore links with Pakistan....
In response to India’s overtures, Pakistanis have enthusiastically
engaged in efforts, on their side, to improve relations with India.... The ceasefire along the border with Kashmir
was initiated by Pakistan’s President, General Musharaff, in November, and
appears to be holding.... Pakistanis
appear to genuinely believe that the timing for détente is right. Vajpayee has
shown over the past year since his initiatives last May, that he is politically
courageous, making a dramatic last bid for peace within his political
lifetime.... General Musharaff in turn,
has responded decisively despite opposition in his country (whether or not that
has anything to do with the two recent assassination attempts against the
Pakistani leader is at this juncture unknown).... Both the Musharaff government, and even more
important, the powerful Pakistan army support a real effort to ease tensions
between the two countries. There is also a systematic effort underway to build
new people-to-people relationships between Pakistanis and Indians at both the
political and economic levels. And the Pakistani business community, which once
shied off competing with giant India, now appear to feel that they are able to
compete and negotiations are underway for a South Asia Free Trade
Agreement. While a formal dialogue
between the two countries cannot begin until cross border terrorism stops, the
process of normalization has begun on a quiet, informal basis.... The November ceasefire is still
THAILAND: “The Sudden Thaw
In South Asia”
The top-circulation, moderately-conservative, English-language Bangkok
Post editorialized (1/5): "All
eyes will turn from the 12th Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation) summit to the sideline meeting between Indian Prime Minister Atal
Behari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Zafarullah Jamali.... The worldwide war on terrorism has given
India and Pakistan a common enemy. There are indications that both India and
Pakistan see it as in their own interest to stop supporting radical groups. By
working on other vexing issues and letting Kashmir rest, India and Pakistan
hope to set in motion an unstoppable process of peaceful conflict resolution
which inevitably will address and settle the question of Kashmir.... There must be concern about Pakistan's
nuclear programmes and weapons. In a coup, they could fall under the control of
religious or military extremists. A nuclear armed government with ties to
terrorists would upset the world. The former Pakistani ambassador to Thailand,
Kamal Matinuddin, naturally puts the onus for peace on India. He holds that
'[Saarc] members are scared that India wants to dominate the region''.... If...the India-Pakistan meetings go
well...peace will be closer."
Tuong Van wrote in official Sai Gon Giai Phong, run by the
local government of Ho Chi Minh city (1/12):
"Recent developments in Islamabad have made Washington
worried.... Two consecutive
assassination attempts against Musharraf indicate that extremist Muslim forces
are very determined in their bid to become the ruler of the country. Once Musharraf is eliminated and Muslim
leaders gain power, US global strategy will fall into pieces.... In Washington, many people suggest that
maximum efforts must be exerted to protect Musharraf's life, and to prevent
Muslim figures from gaining power, and that the US must do anything so that
Pakistan, which is already like a barrel of explosives, does not explode. In essence, whatever the U.S. is doing is
for protecting their global strategy."
CANADA: "Kashmir Is
The Toughest Of Nuts"
Marcus Gee held in the leading Globe and Mail (1/9): "[I]f anyone can reach a deal with India
on Kashmir, it is Gen. Musharraf.... By
coincidence, Mr. Vajpayee also has the patriotic credentials to deal on
Kashmir. As the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, he can
hardly be called weak on the Muslim 'threat.' Both men are in a strong
political position. Mr. Vajpayee's BJP recently won three important state
elections, pushing aside the Congress Party. Gen. Musharraf, who took power in
a military coup, recently won a vote of confidence in Pakistan's electoral
college that will allow him to stay in power at least until 2007. Both are
strongly motivated to make a deal....
Mr. Musharraf is motivated by his close relationship with Washington,
which has pushed him to deal with India. He, too, sees economic progress as the
key to Pakistan's future, and trade with the rising economic giant next door
could do wonders for Pakistan. Together with Mr. Vajpayee, he could do great
things--provided he survives the next assassination attempt, which his bold
approach to India has made all but inevitable."
"Slight Improvement In Kashmir"
Serge Truffaut noted in the liberal Le Devoir (1/8): "As fragile as they might be, the
initial talks between Pakistani and Indian leaders must be welcomed.... When one thinks that only two years ago,
these two countries which possess nuclear bombs were on the verge of
war.... For 18 months now, those two
nations have been observing a cease fire, a Pakistani initiative. [Pakistan]
has made a lot of concessions, just to show its good faith to the Indian
government, which has always mistrusted anything coming out of Islamabad.
Amongst the moves made by Musharraf to placate his Indian counterpart, Pakistan
said it is ready to negotiate the holding of a referendum on Kashmir. This
concession is huge. Especially since it is at the heart of the two nations'
history since 1947.... This fact [that
the UN-promised-referendum where Kashmiris could decide their fate was never
held] led to two of the three wars between India and Pakistan.... To add to the complexity of the file,
organizations fighting for the independence of Kashmir have rallied enough
supporters over the years for them not to be sidelined. Some of these groups,
having opted for armed rebellion, can be expected to try to torpedo any
negotiation attempt conducted exclusively between India and Pakistan."
The liberal Toronto Star opined (1/8): "This week President Pervez Musharraf of
Pakistan and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India reached a
breakthrough agreement to resume talks on the issues that divide them. The
talks will cover terrorism, illegal drugs, cross-border trade, boundary
disputes and a number of other points, but the main one is the fate of the
Himalayan territory of Kashmir. It has been the trigger for two of the three
wars fought between the two countries since independence from Britain in 1947.
In 2002, a fourth Indo-Pakistani war almost broke out there. Pakistan controls
one-third of Kashmir, India the rest. Both say that they alone should have all
of it. Those positions appear irreconcilable, and may well turn out to be. But
a solution is not beyond reach with good faith and practical action from each
side. To begin with, both countries have to acknowledge that they have failed
to get what they want in Kashmir....
Something has to change. Each side has to give up something. Pakistan
has to give up the idea that it can conquer Kashmir by force, India that it can
rule Kashmir indefinitely without taking account of the views of its people.
Gen. Musharraf and Mr. Vajpayee have already made a good start.... But what
kind of settlement? Ideally, the people of Kashmir would decide the issue for
themselves. The prospects for holding a fair and peaceful vote in the near
future, however, are remote.... In the
early days of independence, Indian leaders acknowledged Kashmir's special
status as the only state with a Muslim majority. The people of Kashmir were to
have their own flag, constitution and citizenship, with only defence, foreign
affairs and communications in federal hands. That could still happen. At the
very least, Gen. Musharraf and Mr. Vajpayee need to bring a permanent end to
the dangerous skirmishing along the frontier between these nuclear-armed
rivals. Let the talks begin."
"Peace In South Asia?"
The conservative National Post editorialized (1/8): "Recently...several factors have
conspired to push the [India and Pakistan] toward a peaceful resolution of the
Kashmir issue. First, both India and Pakistan are now armed with nuclear
weapons, and have been progressively sobered by the realization that
large-scale conflict could lead to the incineration of Karachi, Delhi and a
dozen other cities. Second, since 9/11, the West has had a greatly reduced
tolerance for terrorism, Pakistan's weapon of choice in its campaign to
dislodge India from Kashmir. Third, both countries are led by men near the end
of their political ropes.... News of the
rapprochement is obviously welcome. But it is uncertain whether anything
lasting will come of it. The fundamental problem is that Kashmir has
existential significance to both countries, and it is hard to imagine either
side making substantive concessions....
There is also the problem of continued terrorism. In the past, truces
have fallen apart when rogue elements in Pakistan's military and intelligence
establishment have conspired with terrorists.... Mr. Musharraf must make good on his Tuesday
promise by doing everything in his power to prevent such an outcome. As his
country has learned several times over since 1947, Indian Kashmir cannot be
wrested from Delhi with violence."