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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

January 12, 2004

January 12, 2004





**  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 conflict."


**  Indian critics slam "premature" optimism; Pakistani rightists reject any Kashmir "betrayal."




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 "eliminate terrorism."     


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 time."     


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.




INDIA:  "Deja Vu" 


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 February."


"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 begins."


"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 brotherhood." 


"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 sentiments."


"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 and India."


"Important Breakthrough" 


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."


"SAARC's Substance"


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."


"Advancement Continues" 


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 through SAARC."


"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 Forward"


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 Talks"


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 them." 


"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 issues." 


"End Of SAARC Conference, Islamabad Declaration And Joint Declaration"


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."


"Composite Dialogue"


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 obstructions." 


"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."


"Musharraf-Vajpayee Meeting:  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 Good Relations"


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 can deliver."


"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."


"Peace Dividend"


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."


FRANCE:  “Indo-Pakistan Optimism”


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.”


GERMANY:  "Détente"


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 Pakistan?" 


"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 Over India" 


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 Pakistan"


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."


PORTUGAL:  "Some Promising News"


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 gloom predicted."


SPAIN:  "Indian-Pakistani Thaw"


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 Interest"


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 Enemies"


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."


JAPAN:  “India-Pakistan Leaders’ Summit:  Don’t Stop The Momentum”


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."  


PHILIPPINES:  "The India-Pakistan Cease-fire"


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 holding."


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."


VIETNAM:  "Protecting What?"


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."


"Kashmir's Future"


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."



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