International Information Programs
March 9, 2005

March 9, 2005





**  Kashmir is still "the core issue" despite other "meaningful" CBM gestures.

**  "Cricket diplomacy":  Musharraf requests a "vantage seat" to see cricket in Mohali, India.

**  "Differences over water-sharing" raise concern over Baglihar and Kishanganga dams.

**  Arms sales and defense budget increases: a proverbial CBM "fly in the ointment."




No peace 'sans resolution of the Kashmiri dispute'--  Observers agreed that Indo-Pak confidence building measures [CBMs], defined as any "meaningful gesture," still stumbled over the "core issue" of Jammu and Kashmir.  Pakistan's Lahore-based Daily Times argued discussion should replace the "paradigm of restore mutual trust and confidence."  India's Economic Times joined the Business Standard to proclaim that solving "the larger question of Kashmir itself" could benefit from increased cross-country "trade and people-to-people relations," notwithstanding that Kashmir will remain "an emotive issue in Pakistan."  Pakistan's Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt termed Pakistan's recent release of "180 Indian prisoners" a "gesture of goodwill towards India." 


'The fact is bilateral cricket helps considerably'--  The centrist Indian Express noted that "cricket comes laden with possiblilties."  The nationalist Hindustan Times cited an upcoming cricket match in the Punjab's Mohali as evidence of "Indo-Pak progress" and India's "playing ball with Pakistan."  President Musharraf expressed "his desire to drop by to watch a match" and the Indian Express urged, "invite the general"; offer him a "vantage seat at Mohali's clubhouse."  Cricket has long been a "vehicle of choice for Indo-Pak diplomacy."  India's right-of-center Pioneer concurred that cricket is beginning to "rekindle the bonhomie," adding it has contributed to the "otherwise scrimpy pamphlet of people-to-people contact."


'Avoid adding new irritants' to Indo-Pak relations--  Referring to the 1960 Indus River water-sharing accord, Dubai's English-language Gulf News stated Indo-Pak "differences over water-sharing must be tackled in the...spirit of give and take" that produced the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad bus service accord.  A Pakistan outlet noted that Musharraf was open to discussing the Baglihar Dam issue if India stopped construction over the Chenab River in Kashmir.   Many writers supported the view that "niggling irritants" should be avoided since progress between the two Punjabs and Indo-Pak relations "remains fragile."


Blameworthy:  'U.S., India, Israel Collusion' on arms sales--  An Indian author decried a "proposed sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan."  Pakistan outlets railed against Delhi's "ambitious arms expansion program" noting India's eight percent defense budget increase.  Outlets from both countries, with differing emphasis, expressed concern for the region over arms dealings and blamed the U.S.  Pakistan's Nawa-e-Waqt claimed Indian purchases from the U.S., France, Russia and Israel indicate "Indian designs against Pakistan and China."  An Indian editor held U.S. arms sales and security policies at fault for Pakistan's being "a failed state," contending U.S. "global interests did not allow democracy to take root in Pakistan."


Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888,


EDITOR:  Rupert D. Vaughan


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 65 reports from 4 countries over 17 February to 9 March 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.




"Critical Acclaim" 


The centrist The Tribune editorialized (3/8):  “It was a proud moment when the first and the largest (540 mega watt) nuclear plant went critical at Tarapur on Sunday.  It is a Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor that uses natural uranium as fuel and heavy water as moderator and coolant...It took five years for the Tarapur-4 reactor to be commissioned.  The concept, design, manufacturing technology and fabrication of equipment have all been done indigenously.  It seems that the cost of the reactor has come to less than what was originally envisaged, leading to a lower rate being charged for the power generated there, which will be Rs. 2.65, instead of Rs. 3.50.... This reactor will add to the total nuclear power generation of 2,770 MW.  There have been some concerns about safety in nuclear establishments, especially since some workers were exposed to high radiation levels in 2003.  Safety has to be ensured in all nuclear establishments.  The new reactor is said to have a state-of-the-art containment system.  The initial international reaction to the commissioning of the plant has been cautious and mature.  India had a demonstrated commitment to peace and has also shown that it is not dependent on anyone for nuclear fuel.  The commissioning of the new reactor is an important milestone in the nation's march towards self-reliance.”


"Core Issue: Cricket"


The pro-BJP right-of-center The Pioneer opined (3/8):  “It is that time of the year again.  With the winter of discontent left behind, it's the season of spring--in other words some customary warmth--in India-Pakistan relations.  Just as it happened in March 2004, it is cricket that is beginning to rekindle the bonhomie.  It was the Indian eleven's tour of Pakistan last year that had led to the turning over of a new leaf in the otherwise scrimpy pamphlet of people-to-people contact.  This time, the Pakistani cricketers are on a reciprocal mission: Of winning the hearts and minds of the Indian people.  Clearly, brains other than cricketing are at work: The normative impassiveness of the Pakistani state is beginning to show signs of definite animation.  President Pervez Musharraf has made known his desire to drop by to watch a match. To many people in the country, it is reminiscent of Zia-ul Haq's 'cricket diplomacy'; the Pakistani leader had alighted at Jaipur Airport in 1987, during a tense phase in bilateral relations, to watch an India-Pakistan game; it had considerably lowered the temperatures then.  Such a freeze may not exist today; but President Musharraf is welcome. At the same time, the Pakistani leader will be well-advised to confine his visit--and comments--to cricket.  In other words, he must not give in to his trademark urge to call in journalists to a breakfast meeting, and then betray his usual penchant to rake up the 'core' issue.  Importantly, gestures that encourage a spirit of camaraderie between the people of the two countries are not restricted to cricket alone: Pakistan may be on the verge of lifting a 40-year ban on the epochal Hindi film, Mughal-e-Azam.  While its proscription in that country may have been senseless and even self-defeating, the question is why should other Hindi films--and similar exchanges in the cultural domain--continue to be restricted or discouraged by the Pakistanis?  Perhaps President Musharraf needs to address this vital area of regional peace and neighborly cooperation; by doing so, he will win more hearts and minds in the host country than any other Pakistani leader ever has.”


"Invite The General" 


Centrist The Indian Express editorialized (3/8):  “The general’s enthusiasm is understandable.  The start of an India-Pakistan cricket comes laden with such possibilities that his stated desire for a field side view is unsurprising.  It is to be hoped, then, that all the protocol related to invitations to heads of state will be sorted out expeditiously, and Musharraf will get a vantage seat at Mohali’s clubhouse.  National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan says consensus will be evolved on the visit.  A consensus already exists: facilitate as many visits from across the border as possible.   Cricket has long been a vehicle of choice for Indo-Pak diplomacy.  This time, however, something seems to have changed, and it says as much about India-Pakistan cricket as about bilateral engagement.  And all of it, pre-series, is heartening....  Spectators, both Pakistanis and Indians, took ownership of this first contact after such a long diplomatic chill.  Cricket became the first--and still the primary--site from which to expand a space free of the diplomat’s or the politician’s agenda....  To politicians and diplomats, the message should be evident.  In spring 2004 using cricket to kickstart a bold diplomatic overture was a masterstroke.  A year later, it’s time to quit that field as an excuse for diplomacy.  Cricket has acquired its own momentum.  Come along simply to enjoy the contest at hand.  For composite dialogues, there are other venues.”


"Balle-Balle At Mohali"


C. Raja Mohanan, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University expressed this view in the centrist The Indian Express (3/8):   “While the Indian and Pakistani teams slug it out at Mohali, the Punjabis and their many brethren from across the border will have a ball inside and outside the cricket stadium....  The excitements of Indo-Pak cricket at Mohali are only matched by the heady revival of Punjabiyat and the growing support across the border for reconciliation in the land of the five rivers. In less than a year, the movement for the recovery of Punjabiyat has taken big strides.... At the level of the mundane, the visit of a few thousand Indians to witness the cricket match in Lahore last year revealed the immense prospects for tourism between the two countries. Neither of the Punjabs is hot on the international tourist map. But Punjabis in both countries and the diaspora are dying to travel across the fractured land. Until recently, India and Pakistan had no notion of a tourist visa in relation to the other. They have just agreed on the idea of a group tourist visa. By expanding the current limited travel to religious purposes and by consciously promoting tourism, both the Punjabs will make immense economic gains. By allowing people to drive across in their own vehicles, and by giving visas on arrival to many categories of people, the two sides could tap impulse tourism and weekend travel through the Wagah border.  India and Pakistan now allow third country nationals to drive across their border but deny the privilege to each other.  Some thoughts are already on the Indo-Pak negotiating table. These include the laying of a diesel pipeline from Ludhiana to Lahore and the opening of the Wagah border for bilateral trade.  Pakistan is yet to respond to these Indian proposals....  While the progress between the two Punjabs has been amazing, it also remains fragile. Will it lead to dangerous ethnic chauvinism in the Punjab?  Must we let Punjabiyat hijack Indo-Pak relations?  Would Pakistan take advantage by renewing support to the Khalistan movement?  How does India square the promise of a bus service between Amritsar and Lahore with the fact that East Punjab remains out of bounds for all Pakistani nationals?  The sum of all fears about the rise of Punjabiyat cannot overcome one simple reality: the normalization of Indo-Pak relations and the resolution of the conflict over Jammu and Kashmir is tied inextricably to an enduring reconciliation among the Punjabis who suffered the most from the Partition.  For that reason alone the entire subcontinent should welcome the return of Punjabiyat.  As the Punjabis press New Delhi and Islamabad to loosen up a little and set new standards for contact and connectivity across South Asian borders, they will pave the way for change on other frontiers....  As it drives the Indo-Pak peace process, Punjabiyat heralds a different future for the subcontinent as a whole.  In a globalizing world, Punjabiyat reminds us, the subcontinent can no longer be a mere collection of nation-states. South Asia will also have to re-aggregate well-defined regions that have existed for millennia before recent borders were drawn 57 years ago.  Rediscovering the regions of the subcontinent does not mean redrawing borders.  It is about reconnecting people by transcending linear boundaries.”


“The Road Less Travelled”


A.G. Noorani commented in the nationalist The Hindustan Times (3/8):  "The cruel irony of concluding a severely restricted Indo-Pak accord on travel across the LoC--along the historic, all-weather Jhelum valley road--at a time when Kashmir’s only road link to the rest of the world was cut off for days, escaped leaders of both governments.  They laud it as an 'achievement.'  The record reveals the hollowness of their boasts...but India and Pakistan did not adopt the procedures of old.  Instead, they took turns trying to extract political gains.  Credibly, India took the initiative, on July 9, 2001, ahead of the Agra summit in terms that identify the test for such an accord’s worth....  On November 23, 2003, Pakistan agreed to talks on the Srinagar Muzaffarabad bus service while reiterating its stand on Kashmir.  India proposed immediate talks on the arrangements.  They were to be held on March 29-30, 2004, but were postponed 'after mutual consultations'.  It was now India’s turn to wreck the talks, held on December 7.  It began by stipulating passports, professing 'flexibility', it suggested an 'additional' document for use along with the passport which, however, would not be stamped....  In this sparring, neither side cared a jot for the ones for whom the bus was meant--the people of Kashmir.  Their sole concern was to assert their respective stands in the dispute over Kashmir; nothing else.  The talks fizzled out.  A new element was introduced, the 'entry permit', but along with the passport.  The accord of February 16 was announced in a brief statement....  The bus service is expected to commence from April 7, 2005.  The details were spelt out only at a press briefing that day and the next by India’s Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.  The bus service will be ‘open to all Pakistanis and Indians, including the people of J&K, but not third party nationals’.  There will be two permits.  No bus will cross the LoC.  The bus from each side will stop at the LoC in a ‘synchronized, movement.  Passengers would get off, cross the LoC on foot carrying their luggage, and board the waiting bus on the other side, after securing an entry permit there.  This is claimed to be a ‘humanitarian procedure’.  It is sheer symbolism divorced from the realities.  Technically, the bus will be open to all Indians.  But which Indian outside Kashmir would want to board it when he can travel by other routes?  The rural poor will have to go to Srinagar to apply.  The affluent Kashmiri, on the other hand, could always fly from New Delhi.  For whom is the bus meant?...  There is yet no response from Pakistan to India’s proposal, made last December, to allow members of divided families to meet at five points--Tangdhar, Uri, Poonch and Mendhar on the LoC and Suchetgarh on the international border along the Jammu-sialkot route.  The Kashmiri press, however, accuses the army of obstructing gathering of relatives across the Neelum river.  Can the bus be used to exchange mail and literature?  The accord is symbolic of Indo-Pak diplomacy in all its crudities.  But it is certain to have a political fallout.  Demands will be raised for wider openings.  Contrary to hopes on one side and fears on another, the status quo will not be frozen; it will be disturbed, politically.  For the rest, when Indians and Pakistanis conclude any accord, they remind us of Dr. Johnson's woman preacher.  As he told Boswell on July 31, 1763, ‘Sir a woman’s preaching is like a dog walking on its hind legs.  It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”


"Rice Above Pettiness" 


Nationalist The Hindustan Times  stated (3/5):  “The upcoming visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is an indication of the importance with which the new administration views India.  Because of the Iraq war, the Bush administration is not particularly popular around the world, but India has been an exception.  A visit so early in her tenure by the Secretary of State is an acknowledgement of this.  For this reason, the visit must not be seen only in the context of a possible visit of President Bush himself later this year, but of the effort by the administration to reach out to friends across the world....  Rice is an unabashed loyalist, virtually Bush’s alter ego.  She both shapes and reflects his views and is known to execute his orders without question.  The one thing that must be avoided is to whine and carp about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.  And this holds good even if the U.S. indicates that it plans to resume the supply of F-16s to Pakistan....  Undoubtedly, a resumed arms transfer relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is not something we should view with equanimity.  But instead of getting locked into a negative approach, New Delhi should calmly and coolly determine what it wants from the U.S. and evolve a negotiating strategy of obtaining it.  There will undoubtedly be a price, but nothing of substance ever comes for free.  But there are many payoffs from being on the right side of the U.S.  India has a window of about 18 months till the Bush administration, one of the friendliest in recent times, becomes lame duck, so time is of the escape (sic).”


"On The Road To Peace"


Ghazanfar Butt analyzed in the pro-BJP right-of-center The Pioneer (3/4):  “It has taken nearly two years for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service to get the green signal.... When Foreign Minister Natwar Singh visited Islamabad recently, very few expected a positive outcome....  But what turned out was a breakthrough.  Both India and Pakistan agreed to start the bus service in April, and they also agreed on the kind of document that would be required for travel.... Both Islamabad and New Delhi will have to provide the infrastructure for the commencement of the bus service. The road will have to be repaired, particularly near the Line of Control....  To begin with, the bus service will be used by members of divided families to meet each other.  But soon the Government of Jammu and Kashmir will have to decide what stand it would take when young men of the state who went to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir since the late-80s express a desire to return home.  Natwar Singh said at the conclusion of his visit to Pakistan, that...the peace process could only be sustained in an atmosphere free from violence and terrorism...."  Will the terrorists listen to this groundswell of goodwill and positive sentiment?  One hopes so.  It is also important that events like the attempt to perpetrate violence in the office of the Commissioner of Srinagar will be dealt with firmly, and terrorists are told in clear terms that violence does not pay.”


"Arms Sales To Pakistan: 'Fly In The Ointment' For India"


Diplomatic correspondent Indrani Bagchi commented in centrist The Times Of India (3/4):   "Despite the hiccups with Pakistan, the U.S. and India have come a long way in their bilateral agenda.  Helping things along have been events like the tsunami core group, which saw the two countries coming together in a unique welding of humanitarian and strategic consideration.  During the recent crisis in Nepal too, the U.S. and India have been, as the saying goes, on the same page....  The two governments have spent long hours juggling dates for Bush's visit.  Sources said two windows of opportunity were being examined--first as early as March-April and the second in autumn, a date which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) prefers....  In a testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, State Department official Donald Camp said on Wednesday:  'Our partner ship is growing across multiple fronts, including our security and economic ties and we are working together to solve regional problems....' Despite the fact that defense relations are going along smoothly, there is one thing that is guaranteed to be a fly in the ointment--the proposed sale of F-16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan.  The Indian Government is in no doubt--this will take a huge toll on Indo-U.S. relations, Bagchi said.  While the decision on that is yet to be inked, there is strong apprehension that the sale might go through.  What effect this will have on a Bush visit is unclear yet.  But it's a message Condoleezza Rice will hear in full measure from India when she comes here."


“Coercion Inadvisable In Nepal”


Kanchan Gupta provided analysis in the pro-BJP right-of-center The Pioneer (3/2):  “As the second month of emergency rule in Nepal, imposed by King Gyanendra after sacking the darbari government led by Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on February 1, begins, a co-ordinated international response to the suspension of democracy and civil rights in this Himalayan kingdom is taking shape...both China and Pakistan have been systematically working towards lessening Kathmandu's material dependence on New Delhi and diluting Nepal's emotional linkages with India. The government of India is not unaware of the deep incursions which Pakistan's ISI has made into Nepal's political and bureaucratic establishments.  India's intelligence agencies, both internal and external, have prepared extensive dossiers on the ISI's evil network in Nepal: The Terai region is living evidence of the ISI's success in its Nepal program.  The 'royal coup' and its political fallout provide an excellent opportunity for Beijing and Islamabad to shore up their relations with Kathmandu.  If such a closing of ranks were to happen, it would adversely impact on India more than on either the EU or the U.S., at least in the short term.  That is a given which cannot be ignored by India's foreign policy and political establishments.  Which, in turn, precludes the use of coercion to force King Gyanendra to restore the status quo ante and hand over executive powers to a representative multi-party government till elections can be held.  A thin line divides coercive tactics from coercive diplomacy.  India must tread cautiously so that the line is not crossed.”


"King Gyanendra Trying To Become Musharraf No. Two"


Sudarshan Upadhyay opined in the Mumbai edition of the right-of-center Gujarati daily Gujarat Samachar (3/2):  "It is now a month after King Gyanendra dismissed the democratically elected government and took control of the entire administration in Nepal.  By usurping power in an unconstitutional manner he has portrayed himself as Musharraf number-two.  Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf played a similar game when he took over the reins of Pakistan in October 1999, by leading a military coup and dismissing the popular government headed by the then Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.  Even King Gyanendra, like President Musharraf, has promised to re-establish democracy within three years.  However, at this moment, this seems to be like building castles in the air.  Nations like India, the U.S. and China have expressed their strong displeasure over what has happened in Nepal.


"Cricket Through Compromise"


Centrist The Hindu stated (2/21):   "It is not always that both sides win in a compromise.  But the agreement between the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the Pakistan Cricket Board to change the venue of the second Test from Ahmedabad to Kolkata, and consequently schedule an extra One Day International in Ahmedabad, should count as a win-win solution to an issue that seemed, at one point, to be drifting beyond sport. Although the Governments of India and Pakistan wisely abstained from intervening officially in the dispute over the choice of venues, it was clear from the start that the two cricket boards needed some help from diplomacy to settle the matter.  The meeting of External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh with the chief of the PCB, Shaharyar Khan, contributed exactly this; it helped that they were former diplomats and close friends, but what is significant is that the compromise was endorsed at the highest levels of government on both sides....  Unfortunately, India-Pakistan relations have always been an important factor in the conduct of cricket matches featuring the two teams. So much so, when bilateral relations were strained, any cricket encounter was almost unthinkable.  But the fact is that bilateral cricket helps considerably in improving people-to-people relations, as India's tour of Pakistan in 2004 has shown.  The success of that tour should be a reminder to the cricket boards and the governments that the game should not be held hostage to chauvinistic politics on either side of the border."


"Now, Let Cricket Speak"


Centrist The Indian Express remarked (2/21):   "At long last the niggling irritants in the forthcoming Indo-Pak cricket series seem to have been sorted out by the cricket boards of both countries and the sub-continent can once again settle down to some gripping cricket....  Let us now re-live the spirit of the Friendship Series of March 2004....  The time has now come for India and Indians to respond in equal measure and we certainly do not want out-of-work politicians queering the pitch.


"Playing Ball With Pakistan"


Nationalist The Hindustan Times editorialized (2/21):   "The coming cricket series, Ahmedabad and all, the go-ahead for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus and the first tie-up between an Indian financial products firm with a Karachi-based Pakistani company to tap the IT potential in Pakistan are clear signs of the changing times in the difficult relationship of the two subcontinental neighbors.  While politics and cricket are best kept apart, in practice it doesn't quite happen that way, and so the decisions to press on with the tour are welcome....  No government, either in Islamabad or New Delhi, will take a decision, on, say, Jammu and Kashmir, without carrying their people with them, and getting 'the people' to understand each other is the first element in this equation....  For this reason, the most important of Mr. Singh's agreements in Islamabad related to opening of borders.  While the accord on opening the Srinagar-Muzafarabad route in J&K through a special entry-permit system has hogged all the attention, the agreement on the Lahore-Amritsar bus service and the rail service through Khokarpar and Munabao are also significant....  Pakistan has yet to allow an opening in trade and commerce.  But opening routes can be seen as a means to that end....  In 2000-01, India's imports were 0.42 percent of Pakistan's exports and it provided just 0.13 percent of its imports.  As we begin approaching these figures again, many of our current problem will begin looking smaller."


"U.S. To Blame For Pak's Failings"


Former editor Samuel Baid opined the right-of-center pro-BJP The Pioneer (2/20):  "The Americans now do not seem to believe Gen Musharraf will restore democracy....  In the past, a change in U.S. policy towards its blue-eyed Pakistani military dictators was always preceded by reports denigrating them or their regimes....  Who though should be held responsible for Pakistan becoming a failed state; for nuclear trafficking; and for Gen Musharraf's refusal to take off the Army Chief's uniform and restore democracy?  The people of Pakistan?  No.  The real culprits are the Americans, whose global interests did not allow democracy to take root in Pakistan.  They encouraged religious obscurantism/terrorism and connived with the country's pursuit of nuclear weapons in the 1980s.  Whether or not Pakistan will ever become a failed state will depend on its people.  Unfortunately, the world has not studied these people's potential, their intellectual, moral and cultural strength, and their commitment to democracy....  Despite all their religious inclinations, the people of Pakistan never elected religious parties except in October 2002 when Gen Musharraf's military government went out of its way to suppress the mainstream political parties, in the process helping the pro-Al Qaida and Taliban alliance of six Islamic parties called the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) win....  The Talibanisation of Pakistan, therefore, sounds farfetched....  NIC-CIA predictions of a future struggle for Pakistan's nuclear weapons needs serious attention. That is a possibility not because of Talibanisation or civil war but because of the Generals' inane greed for wealth.  Time's report on AQ Khan hints that he has been made a scapegoat for this greed of the Generals.  And the United States as a friend of these Generals cannot plead innocence if they continue to bootleg nuclear secrets and equipment."


"Compulsions Of Peace"


M.J. Akbar provided an analysis in the centrist The Asian Age (2/20):  "India-Pakistan relations are an exercise in the art of the possible.  Occasionally, as happened this week during external affairs minister Natwar Singh's visit to Islamabad and Lahore, this is elevated to a fine art. While credit must always be evenly shared, a particular word of appreciation is necessary for the statesmanship of Natwar Singh.  He did not let politics interfere with national interest. The Islamabad declaration was made by a bitter political foe, but instead of being petty and finding fault he built on that understanding and delivered far beyond conventional expectations....  The hard work still had to be done....  It requires will to change a won't.  Natwar Singh and Khurshid Kasuri showed precisely how diplomacy can be used creatively when the will to do something positive exists. You can either find a solution for every problem, or a problem for every solution.  And the bus was as tricky as it gets, for it involved issues as basic as identity and sovereignty. The two foreign ministers chose to look for solutions. They operated on the strength of a basic agreement, that no decision would be tantamount to any dilution of the known positions taken by the two countries on Kashmir.  Pakistan could not accept a Kashmiri crossing a disputed border with an Indian passport for it would have been tantamount to recognition of Kashmir as a part of India.  So a document was created that would contain all the details that a passport has, would be issued by the Regional Passport Officer and handed over to the other country for permission to enter, just as a passport is handed over for a visa.  Now, it was Pakistan's turn to accommodate. Under UN resolutions, any travel across the Line of Control should have been regulated by UN personnel (who actually do exist, however nominally).  Instead the travel will be handled bilaterally....  But under this agreement, residents of that region will also be permitted a Kashmiri status if they want to take the bus.  India dropped one of its demands to accommodate another agreement with extraordinary potential, the gas pipeline that will, if all goes well, run through India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran to Turkmenistan.  At one level, it is a project that suits India's needs much more than Pakistan's, for Pakistan would have got the gas in any case.  But that is not the main point of the concept.  This is a daring example of what should be called eco-politics: the triumph of mutual economic benefit through the application of positive political skill....  If India and Pakistan can cooperate and define common strategic goals for this energy-rich region, they can together challenge the domination of any power that seeks unilateral primacy in the Middle East and Central Asia.  This is not a claim made without consideration, or a day dream.  Is there any significance in the fact that the bus was first mooted by India? Yes.  It is evidence that Delhi is ready for flexibility.  Not so long ago, rigidity was synonymous with patriotism. That cul-de-sac has been breached, and suddenly possibilities are opening up.  India could become the meeting point of pipelines between Burma and Central Asia.  War breeds vested interests that will not easily surrender their lucrative space.  Peace must build its own vested interests.  Natwar Singh has placed us on a bus that could create such interests: some at the emotional level, others at the economic level, for he has also opened up tourism in the valley to Pakistan.  It is a significant achievement.  But every achievement is only the starting point for the next one."


"Step by Step--Slow But Steady On Indo-Pak Ties"


Pro-economic reforms The Economic Times remarked (2/19):  "The nature of the agreement on the bus between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad suggests that people to people relations are rapidly becoming the cornerstone of the peace process....  Closer links between people on both sides of the line of control (LoC) would be a peace dividend for the ordinary Kashmiri....  There was also the possibility that the negotiations for the bus service would help bridge the gap between the two countries on the larger question of Kashmir itself....  Getting the bus service going is one thing, going beyond that, something else.  This inability to use the bus service to draw the contours of a future larger agreement may, however, be a blessing in disguise.  Given the rigidities that are inevitable in a dispute that has lasted over half a century, too great a focus on a comprehensive agreement could only ensure that even the small steps are not taken....  An increase in the economic and people-to-people contacts will also create a constituency for peace in both countries.  It would be too optimistic, as of now, to believe that this constituency would be able to overcome the deep divide and mutual suspicions.  But if this peace constituency were to become large enough, and influential enough, it could force both India and Pakistan to look for more innovative solutions that would allow both countries to concentrate on their future rather than periodically opening up wounds from their past."


"Ticket To Ride" 


An editorial in the nationalist Hindustan Times read (2/18):  "Symbolic gestures--or as current parlance has it, confidence-building measures--can at times prove to be much more 'flesh and blood' than policy break-throughs....  The signs of a Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad bus-link have been visible for sometime now.  But like the Cheshire Cat, any concrete go-ahead kept appearing and disappearing according to the flux in India-Pakistan relations....  It was left to India to convince its neighbor that while the Kashmir dispute would not-could not-be solved overnight, holding other beneficial measures hostage to the promise of a 'permanent revolution' would be mulish.  It's not only been New Delhi's ability to make a successful argument in favor of the bus-link that has made Musharraf give the nod, but also the fact that he has come to realize that a Kashmir-Kashmir link is something that those for whom the Islamabad regime allegedly speaks desperately want....  The fact that both Srinagar and Muzaffarabad are celebrating makes this 'CBM' historic enough for infusing a new-found confidence among Kashmiris about trusting Indian and Pakistani intentions."


"Indo-Pak Progress" 


The pro-BJP right-of-center Business Standard declared (2/18):  "At long last, India and Pakistan have agreed on two major things. One is that they will restart the bus service between the Indian side of Kashmir and the Pakistan-occupied part of it.  The other relates to the setting up of a gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistani territory....  Of major significance is the inference (for the time being, at least) that Pakistan is willing to reduce its meddling in Kashmir.  Of course, this does not mean that the ISI, which is a major force in Pakistan, will not shift its operations elsewhere.  But at the visible level, Pakistan now appears to be affirming the change in its approach to relations with India.  If it doesn't revert to its old ways, both countries can benefit from improved ties.  However, given Pakistan's past record, it would be wise not to pitch expectations too high....  If India keeps the dialogue process going at one end and stands firm on defending its vital interests at the other, Pakistan will gradually have to come to terms with itself and the ground realities.  While Kashmir is, and will remain, an emotive issue in Pakistan, once the gains from higher trade and people-to-people relations become visible, even the most cussed Pakistani government will think twice about maintaining anti-Indian rhetoric at a high pitch.  For India and Pakistan to live like normal neighbors, the Pakistani Army needs to go back to the barracks and the ISI needs to become less of a state-within-a-state.  But that stage is still a long way off."


"New Route" 


The centrist Kolkata-based Telegraph opined (2/18):  "In Kashmir, firecrackers greeted the news that the Srinagar-Muzaffarbad bus route was to become operative....  For people on both sides, the psychological and emotional significance of the decision to open up a route unused for 58 years is overwhelming. All they need is an entry permit, not a passport. This last decision is symptomatic of the gentle mutual nudging by which India and Pakistan have gradually come to the point they have....  The emphasis on bilateralism is reassuring. The easing of relations had begun to gather energy, in spite of interruptions, since the ceasefire along the Line of Control....  While Kashmir remains at the heart of intransigence, all the other moves - plans for the opening of the Khokrapar-Munabao rail route and the Amritsar-Lahore bus route, for discussions relating to nuclear security, to the security of fishermen, to the details of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline and to the upgrading of trade and economic ties--show a willingness on both sides to deal directly and fruitfully with each other.  People are eager to continue a contact that is beginning to look possible, and no political leader can ignore the groundswell of growing trust and sentiment."


"Ice Starts Melting" 


Left-of-center Kolkata-based Bengali-language Sambad Pratidin noted (2/18):  "For the first time in 16 years, an Indian Foreign Minister is visiting Pakistan.  It is not only the visit but the fact that Natwar Singh's every diplomatic effort in all aspects has also been successful.  It is hoped that the current negotiations and the decision to run the bus services will add a new dimension to the bilateral relations between India and Pakistan.  Of course, there are differences in opinion on some issues even though some of the knots have been untangled.  But that is not unnatural.  What is most important is that the resumption of bus services and exchange of ideas between India and Pakistan will help forge relations between peoples of the two countries.  It can naturally be expected that terrorist attacks on India, as a result of this, will be on the wane and will gradually be cornered.  Peoples of both countries will heave a sigh of relief. Sensible people never want disturbances to continue.  Besides, in the context of the global environment, an ambience of peace over the two countries is absolutely essential.  If peace prevails, this will mean lesser expenditure on curbing terrorism and protecting the borders.  The money saved is absolutely necessary for developmental expenses in countries like India and Pakistan."


"Whether Flowers Blossom Or Not" 


Kolkata-based Bengali-language independent Ananda Bazar Patrika editorialized (2/18):  "Whether the current Indo-Pak bilateral relation heralds the arrival of spring is something that still cannot be said with certainty.  Nonetheless, flowers have started blossoming one by one.  Foreign Minister Natwar Singh's Pakistan visit has considerably thawed the ice in relations between neighbors....  Considering all aspects it is, indeed, a good accomplishment...although it is not that two rivals have stopped quarreling and started shaking hands.  The division of the sub-continent has created a historical animosity and hatred between the two neighbors that is not going to disappear so easily.  Diplomatic pressures and mutual bargaining between the two to extract maximum advantage from each other will stand in the way to speedy improvement in the relationship.  Therefore, the only possible course is to move forward step-by-step.  But the foundation for this forward movement should be built firmly. What is needed is trust in place of suspicion and creation of a confidence-building atmosphere. The best way to achieve this is to increase people-to-people contact.  It will be a big gain if Natwar Singh's Pakistan visit can bring any qualitative change to this process."    


"Closed Road Is Opening Up"


Kolkata-based centrist Urdu-language Azad Hind asserted (2/18):  "Foreign minister Natwar Singh's Pakistan trip was a hit.  In their daylong deliberations in Islamabad Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Mehmud Kasuri took five or six important decisions that had long been pending. It proves that no outstanding issue between these two neighboring countries can remain unsolved....  The process that had started almost a year ago aiming at making the Indo-Pak relation formidable has achieved momentum. At present there is an atmosphere of confidence between the two countries, and none of them looks at the other with suspicion and doubt....  If there is nothing untoward golden days are surely to come soon."


"Bus Without Pass Across Border"


Senior Editor Bharat Bhushan wrote in the centrist Kolkata-based Telegraph (2/17):  "It is springtime in India-Pakistan relations.  In a pathbreaking agreement, the two countries have decided to allow travel across the Line of Control (LoC) between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad by bus without passports.  This agreement will be without prejudice to the respective positions of the two countries on Jammu and Kashmir....  The Indian assumption is that once the travel document is issued, travel will be possible not only to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) but also to Baltistan and Gilgit.  India claims that both were part of the erstwhile undivided state of Jammu and Kashmir....  It was evident...that differences in perception on not only Jammu and Kashmir but also other issues remained.  While the bus service across the LoC was announced through a joint statement read out by (MEA Natwar) Singh, both he and his counterpart, Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, also read out separate statements.  Singh and Kasuri refused to take any questions to safeguard the agreement reached....  Another route that seemed ripe for opening was the Khohrapar-Munabao link from Rajasthan to Sind....  It was not clear, however, whether the October deadline would be met.  The track on the Indian side is broad gauge while it is meter gauge in Pakistan."


"Praiseworthy Exercise"


An editorial in pro-BJP Tamil-language Dinamani read (2/17):  "Encouraging signs of forward movement in Indo-Pakistani relations have emerged.  These have been disclosed by External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh Singh himself after his talks with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.  The normally cautious Singh has declared that after his three days of talks with high-level Pakistani leaders, bilateral relations between the two countries has been moving with a new speed.  Besides, there is a realization that apart from cooperation and improved relations, Singh noted that there is a realization of this necessity.  This reveals a national consciousness in the country's foreign policy.  The fact that Singh has pointed to the improvement in bilateral relations between India and Pakistan since the talks began between former Prime Minister Vajpayee and Musharraf is praiseworthy.  Without doubt, the tactful diplomacy of the Vajpayee regime had certainly earned an esteemed position for India in international fora.  This is a historical truth.  Vajpayee's tactful strategy was also responsible for a change in the U.S. attitude towards India.  Singh's continuance with this policy needs to be lauded."




"'Cricket Diplomacy' Once Again?" 


The centrist national English daily The News editorialized (3/9):   "Are we in for a fresh round of 'cricket diplomacy' to give further impetus to the process of rapprochement between Pakistan and India?  It would seem so from President Musharraf's statement last week, 'If I am invited to watch cricket, I will consider.'  There have been important precedents in recent decades of sports and statecraft being used for improvement of relations between countries.  In 1971-72 the exchange of visits by Chinese and U.S. table tennis teams heralded the end of hostility between their two countries, and came to be known as 'ping pong diplomacy'. General Zia-ul-Haq's unscheduled visit to India in 1987 to witness a Pakistan-India cricket match, at the height of tension between the two countries, removed the chances of a military conflict, and came to be dubbed as 'cricket diplomacy'....  Such people-to-people contacts must become the basis of efforts for continued improvement in relations between the two neighbors.  And if the present peace process can be spurred through a common passion, cricket, then be it so."


“Expecting Invitation From Indian Government”


The second largest Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt opined (3/9):  "The Indian government has refused to comment on the question of India inviting President Musharraf to watch a cricket match between India and Pakistan.  An Indian foreign office spokesperson said that President Musharraf’s wish to watch cricket in India would be answered only after a decision by the Indian government....  The question is why did the President express the desire to visit India to watch cricket.  He could have watched the matches on TV....  It is unreasonable to expect courteousness from India.  And by expressing the desire, the President has given India a chance to behave coldly."


"Maritime Deterrence"


The center-right national English daily, The Nation remarked (3/9):   "Mr. Shaukat Aziz has rightly asserted that Pakistan would not allow the domination of the Indian Ocean by any country.  He made the remark while being briefed about the Shamshee-i-Bahr-II annual exercises at Karachi on Monday.  Maritime hegemony by a state can jeopardize the freedom of sea-lanes and stifle the other littoral states' existing trade and prospects of its development, thus compromising their independent status.  Pakistan sets great store by maritime trade to take full advantage of its potential to increase trade with the advent of WTO.  It also provides the easiest route to the Central Asian States to conduct their trade through sea.  With the completion of Gwadar port soon, Pakistan would be ready to accord them due facilities.  Mr. Aziz's reference to maintaining minimum deterrence is for this reason as well unquestionable."


"Pakistan To Foil Hegemonic Designs: Aziz"


Dawn noted (3/8):  "Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Monday that Pakistan would not allow domination of the Indian Ocean by any country.  Speaking at the PNS Jauhar, where he was given a detailed briefing about 'Shamsheer-e-Bahr-II' war-games, he said Pakistan had no aggressive designs against anyone while it was alive to its defense needs....  'We would continue to play a positive role in international efforts aimed at non-proliferation and combating terrorism,' he added.  'Our command and control system to secure our nuclear arsenals is one of the best in the world,' he said."


"India Building Kishanganga Hydropower Project: Pakistan Will Approach WB If Talks Fail"


The Lahore-based liberal English daily Daily Times  (3/8):  "Pakistan said on Monday it would approach the World Bank on the Kishanganga hydropower project being executed by India if bilateral channels failed to resolve the issue.  Addressing a news conference, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jalil Abbas Jillani said that the Kishanganag project was of great concern to Pakistan and the government would approach the World Bank if talks with India failed. 'We are pursuing the matter.  We will take possible steps for our water security,' he said adding, under the Indus Treaty, all bilateral channels had to be resolved before approaching the World Bank.  'But if we are unable to resolve it, we will refer it to the World Bank,' he said."


"Ms Bhutto And The Nuclear Issue"


An editorial in the Lahore-based liberal English daily Daily Times read (3/5):  "Ms Bhutto has been prime minister of Pakistan twice and remains in the run despite her current difficulties.  Indeed, she is in Washington because she wants to catch the Bush administration’s attention for a passage back home.  She is also the head of Pakistan’s largest political party.  On both counts, her statements are significant.  However, precisely for these reasons, she needs to show circumspection when she travels to foreign lands and chooses to talk to the press on certain national security issues.  In the past few years, as tension between General Musharraf and herself grew, we witnessed a rather cavalier attitude on her part regarding certain such issues....  The nuclear issue is a sensitive one and Ms Bhutto knows this very well. General Musharraf’s government has tried unnecessarily to push her to the sidelines of the political contest. It was, and remains, a poor policy.  Ms Bhutto can legitimately hit back.  But her riposte must not damage Pakistan itself.  That is the least we expect from someone who wants to re-emerge as the country’s chief executive."


"Pakistan Could’ve Made Bomb In 1988"


The liberal English Daily Times remarked (3/4):  "Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Chairperson Benazir Bhutto, who arrived here on the weekend, said on Wednesday that Pakistan had the capability to produce a nuclear bomb in 1988, which is earlier than was previously known.  Benazir told the Voice of America (VOA) in an interview that Pakistan had the ability to produce a bomb in 1988, when she became Prime Minister.  She said Pakistan did not actually assemble a nuclear weapon until after India had built and tested one in 1998."


"Tripartite Gas Line Talks Soon"


The Nation commented (3/4):  "Tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and Iran to ensure the security of a planned gas pile line will be held next week in Islamabad, an official said on Thursday.  'The talks are slated for next week,' the speaker of Iran's House of the Islamic Consultative committee, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, told reporters in the southern Indian city of Bangalore."


"Indian Prisoners' Release"


The second largest Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt editiorialized (3/4):  "While meeting a delegation of the Indian Communist Party, President Musharraf ordered the release of 180 Indian prisoners.  Now the figures of released prisoners touch 900....  The president did well by releasing Indian prisoners, but he should also ask India about the number of Pakistani prisoners it has released so far....  Hundreds of Pakistanis are languishing in Indian jails for the last many years....  Our foreign office should ask India to release all the Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails and if some of them are accused of serious violations then their cases should be brought to Pakistan's notice."


"On The Road To Peace"


Ghazanfar Butt analyzed in the pro-BJP right-of-center The Pioneer (3/4):  “It has taken nearly two years for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service to get the green signal....  When Foreign Minister Natwar Singh visited Islamabad recently, very few expected a positive outcome....  But what turned out was a breakthrough.  Both India and Pakistan agreed to start the bus service in April, and they also agreed on the kind of document that would be required for travel....  Both Islamabad and New Delhi will have to provide the infrastructure for the commencement of the bus service.  The road will have to be repaired, particularly near the Line of Control....  To begin with, the bus service will be used by members of divided families to meet each other.  But soon the Government of Jammu and Kashmir will have to decide what stand it would take when young men of the State who went to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir since the late-80s express a desire to return home.  Natwar Singh said at the conclusion of his visit to Pakistan that....  The peace process could only be sustained in an atmosphere free from violence and terrorism....  Will the terrorists listen to this groundswell of goodwill and positive sentiment?  One hopes so.  It is also important that events like the attempt to perpetrate violence in the office of the Commissioner of Srinagar will be dealt with firmly, and terrorists are told in clear terms that violence does not pay.”


"Creating History"


The center-right national English daily, The Nation remarked (3/3):  "If CBMs alone could create history, which General Musharraf says he wants to, those already taken by him should have been enough, perhaps more than enough.  On Tuesday he announced yet another goodwill measure, the release of 200 Indians languishing in Pakistani jails.  He told a delegation of visiting Indian communist leaders that Pakistan was also willing to discuss the Baglihar dam provided New Delhi stopped construction work on it.  He also stressed that the two sides should avoid adding new irritants to their relations.  It remains to be seen how the Indian side responds to the overtures....  On account of their political clout, they can play a historic role by persuading the ruling coalition in Delhi of the need to show flexibility in resolving issues with Pakistan, especially the core issue of Kashmir."


“Talks Again On Baglihar Dam”


The second largest Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt opined (3/3):  "President Musharraf has said in talks with Indian Communist Party delegation that if India stops Baglihar Dam construction then Pakistan is willing to resolve the issue through bilateral talks....  American think tank U.S. Institute for Peace has already predicted that Pakistan-India dialogue on Kashmir would be fruitless, because India is not willing to give any concession whatsoever to Pakistan.  On the other hand we are again trying to get into the dialogue trap on Baglihar Dam.  India is bent upon creating problems for Pakistan on political, military and economic fronts and it wants to render our farms infertile....  Pakistan should adhere to its stand that construction of any kind of dam on the river flowing into Pakistan is illegal and due to this illegal act of India the process of confidence building and dialogue cannot move forward."


"Meaningful Gesture"


The centrist national English daily, The News editorialized (3/3):  "The release of 200 Indian citizens languishing in Pakistani jails ordered by President Musharraf at his meeting with the visiting delegation of Indian Communist party leaders is indeed a gesture of goodwill towards India, but more importantly towards the Communist movement that came out strongly in the last election in the neighboring country.  That the President promptly responded to the demand of the visitors to free the Indians who crossed over into Pakistan without the required travel documents also shows Islamabad's willingness to take bold steps to keep the peace process on track....  However, the government will need to invest more in befriending such forces as years of their systemic weakening since 1999 by the state apparatus has created such mistrust that cannot be just wished away.  It is these forward-looking political forces in the two countries, which stand for the aspirations of the masses that can ensure sustainability of dialogue as well as attainment of durable peace between the two countries."


"800 Billion War Budget For India: Moment Of Reflection"


The second largest Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt held the view (3/2):  "A constant increase in India’s military budget, purchase of F-16s aircraft and Patriot Missiles from America, 125 war planes and rocket launchers from Russia, sophisticated submarines from France and acquisition of weapons from Israel are enough indicators of Indian designs against Pakistan and China....  Pakistan cannot compete with India in conventional warfare....  Our nuclear and missile programs are the guarantees for the national defense and regional peace."


"Increase In Indian Defense Budget"


The center-right Urdu daily Pakistan stated (3/2):  "Ironically America has replaced the Soviet Union as the military equipment supplier for India....  Surprisingly while prospects for peace in the subcontinent are promoted at the U.S. instance, the same prospects are undermined with the supply of Patriot Missiles to India.  Obviously, if India would be able to neutralize Pakistan deterrence then why would it hold talks with Pakistan to resolve outstanding issues."


"Indian Defense Budget"


The populist Urdu daily Khabrain opined (3/2):   "The increase in India’s defense budget should be a cause of concern for the entire region, not just Pakistan.  It is holding peace talks with Pakistan and taking confidence building measures, and also improving its ties with China.  India presently has better relations with its neighbors than it ever did in the past, then why the need for these defense preparations?  India must be stopped from these war preparations, as they can be dangerous for other countries."


"Indian Defense Budget"


The center-right national English daily, The Nation editorialized (3/2):   "India's biggest-ever defense allocation also comes at a time when India and Pakistan are engaged in delicate CBMs that have followed a tense year-long stand-off at the borders.  Should India's ambitious arms expansion program trigger an arms race in the subcontinent, the considerable efforts invested in the peace process could quickly amount to naught.  The international community should take serious notice of the situation and pressure India to maintain a conventional arms balance instead of feeding its appetite for arms.  A stockpiling contest would divert much-needed funds from poverty alleviation, the gravest crisis of the region, which in turn would only add recruits to the ranks of frustrated hardliner terrorists the West claims to be weary of.  Since Pakistan is making all-out gestures, the ball of carrying forward the peace process is now in India's court."


"India Hikes Defense Budget By 8pc"


The centrist national English daily The News remarked (3/1):  "India’s military budget will rise 8 per cent to Rs 830 billion (USD 19 billion) in the new financial year to pay for the modernization of its arsenal, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram announced on Monday.  Chidambaram said some Rs 344 billion of the total would be used to pay for military hardware and supplies already ordered and to upgrade its ageing arsenal of Russian-built jet fighters and missile systems.  He told parliament that India had spent all the Rs 770 billion budgeted for the current financial year to March 2005, the first time this had happened in several years.  The hike in spending comes despite peace talks with rival Pakistan but was less than expected by some analysts who suggested the country had to go on a shopping spree to replace outdated equipment.  It was also considerably less than the 18 per cent increase put through by the Congress-led coalition government in July."


"Hike Not A Helpful Trend, Pays Pakistan: FO"


The center-right national English daily The Nation stated (3/1):  "Pakistan said on Monday it would not allow its soil to be used for military action against Iran as it wants a peaceful settlement to the U.S.-Iran standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program.  Addressing his weekly press briefing here, Foreign Office Spokesman Masood Khan said, 'Pakistan supports efforts by Britain, France and Germany to negotiate with Iran for a peaceful resolution to the dispute over its nuclear program.'  He said, 'Our policy on this issue is very clear.  We have said many times that we do not want a conflict in the region.  We want the diplomatic option to succeed between all the parties....'  To a question on proposed hike in Indian defense budget, Pakistani Spokesman said, talks were held between the Islamabad and New Delhi on nuclear and conventional CBMs but what we need to discuss is restraint and conventional arms balance."


"India-Pakistan Gas Pipeline Deal Likely On 18th"


The Lahore-based liberal English daily Daily Times noted (3/1):  "Amanullah Khan Jadoon, the Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, has said that Iran, Pakistan and India would likely to sign a gas pipeline project agreement on March 18.  The Minister told reporters that Pakistan was currently in talks with Iran and Pakistan on the gas pipeline project."


"Islamabad To Take Chances For Peace"


The center-right national English daily The Nation stated (2/26):  "Calling for a political will and sincerity to resolve the lingering Kashmir dispute, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz Friday said the goal of development and prosperity in South Asia was unattainable without durable peace in the region.  'To ensure a better, more prosperous and secure future for our people...the first and foremost prerequisite is the establishment of a lasting peace in the region,' he said while addressing the ‘India Today Conclave’ in New Delhi via satellite."


“Talks With India Are Moving Towards Discussion On Important Issues"


Din published (2/28):  "Federal Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has said that in case of an attack on Iran, Pakistan would not side with the U.S.  He said that general elections in the country would be held in 2007 and Benazir and Nawaz Sharif would not participate in them."


"Hillary Wants Delhi To Work With Musharraf"


Dawn commented (2/27):  "U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton told India on Saturday to work with President Musharraf to build durable peace in South Asia, saying he had proved to be a trustworthy ally of the United States against terrorism.  In a landmark address to an international conclave in New Delhi, Ms Clinton also urged the U.S. administration to accept the reality that both India and Pakistan were now nuclear weapons states and, therefore, to consider an "inclusive" doctrine that would not violate their sovereign right to be that."


"Kashmir Bus Service Could Be Delayed"


The center-right national English daily The Nation remarked (2/28):  "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday said the start of a bus service connecting the Indian and Pakistani administered zones of Kashmir, due to begin on April 7, could be delayed.  Singh, on a day-long visit to the region, was speaking in Jammu, winter capital of Indian-Kashmir, after surveying the devastation wrought by avalanches that have claimed 252 lives."


"Indo-Pak Talks Can End In Stalemate: USIP"


The liberal English Daily Times noted (2/28):  "Talks between India and Pakistan are likely to end in stalemate, a major think-tank funded by the U.S. Congress has predicted.  “India’s domestic compulsions regarding Pakistan and the Kashmir issue will preclude it from satisfying Islamabad’s basic demand for ‘progress’ in order to permit the dialogue process to continue,” a report by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) said." 


"Pakistan Capable Of Countering"


The centrist national English daily The News stated (2/26):   "Expressing concern over reports that India is trying to purchase Patriot anti-missile system from the United States, Defense Secretary Hamid Nawaz said Pakistan was capable enough to counter India’s anti-missile system.  'Pakistan will use suitable ways to counter it. There are many strategic and statistical ways to cope with it.  It would be better that India should avoid acquisition of such weapons or system,' he said."


"Indian Flexibility On Kashmir Awaited, Bus No Substitute"


The Lahore-based liberal English daily Daily Times remarked (2/25):  "Pakistan is still waiting for India to show flexibility on the dispute over Kashmir, despite the recent agreement to launch a bus service between the two sides of the divided state, President General Musharraf said on Thursday.  The President reiterated that Pakistan would not unilaterally change its position on Kashmir.  'We have just expressed our willingness to be flexible if such a desire is also expressed by the other side,' he said in a two-hour interaction with editors and senior journalists after launching a website at Aiwan-e-Sadr."


"China Unhappy Over U.S. Patriot Missiles To India"


The center-right national English daily The Nation published (2/25):  "A spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Office Kong Quan Thursday said that his country has taken note of reports regarding the sale of U.S. anti-ballistic missile system to India, hoping that the relevant countries would ensure peace and stability in South Asia.  Addressing a news conference at the Foreign Office, he said the arms race in South Asia will not be in interest of any country.  Appreciating the on-going peace process between Pakistan and India, the spokesman said “we hope that the relevant countries activities will help maintain peace and stability in South Asia."


"The Possibility Of The Start Of A New Arms Race In South Asia"


An editorial in the populist Urdu daily Khabrain stated (2/24):  "Once Pakistan succeeds in building a solid fuel missile loaded with terminal guidance system, it would be able to shape the new situation--created by Indo-U.S. defense agreements--to its advantage.  However, to end the imbalance of power, Pakistan would also need the same kind of technology from other countries that the U.S. is providing to India.  This would mark the beginning of a new arms race in the region.  The U.S. must avoid tilting the balance of power in South Asia so that peace prevails in the region."


"U.S., India, Israel Collusion"


An editorial in the Karachi-based, right-wing, pro-Islamic unity Urdu daily, Jasarat opined (2/24):  "With the American anti-missile Patriot system, India would come out of the psychological pressure of Pakistan’s defense capabilities.  In principle, Pakistan should have launched a severe protest against this maturing sale deed and should have told the United States that if this would be its level of defense cooperation with India then Pakistan would be justified in reviewing its relations with the U.S.  but unfortunately President Musharraf has made Pakistan a fodder before the U.S. and now the U.S. is making Pakistan a fodder for India."


"Indian Akash (Missile) Test"


The second largest Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt noted (2/24):  "India tested medium range Akash missile on Monday....  India is spending billions of dollars annually to buy weapons from America, Russia, European countries and Israel while it itself manufactures innumerable kinds of dangerous weapons, ammunition and fighter aircraft....  America is providing India with Patriot anti-missile system and numerous types of modern defense and attack weapons....  The government of Pakistan should inform the world about the aggressive objectives of India."


"Pakistan, India Don't Understand Each Other: Straw"


Dawn published (2/23):  "British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has praised recent groundbreaking agreements between India and Pakistan even as he warned that the two are still capable of sliding into a stand off because they do not really understand each other.  'I say it's certainly the low level of knowledge and understanding of each of societies, the way they have developed, which is very striking for someone like me, who lives with both communities day by day,' Mr. Straw said.  'If in any situation you want to resolve a conflict you've got to start to understand the other side.  That is what is not happening.'  In the interview telecast on NDTV at the weekend and excerpts of which were published in the Indian Express on Tuesday, Mr. Straw said the situation reminded him of Europe on the eve of the First World War in 1914."


"Bus Service:  Rubbing Salt In The Wounds Of Kashmiris"


Second-largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt concluded (2/18):  "Its been 15 months since Pakistan and India began taking confidence building measures and no denying the fact that so far all the CBMs have benefited India....  On Baglihar Dam India snubbed Pakistan and went for another blow to Pakistan by working on Kishanganga Dam in order to make Pakistan barren.  On the ‘core issue’ India has the same 20 years old stand....  That is why no Kashmiri leader expressed joy over the announcement of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service.  Syed Ali Gillani has openly said that the bus service is not an issue for the people of Jammu and Kashmir; it would not help in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute....  On another note, when Kashmiris would meet each other, the LoC and the international border would be open for travel and Kashmiri freedom fighters would be suppressed through erection of iron fence on the LoC and the military atrocities then what grounds would we present to the international community for the Kashmir dispute resolution.  What would be the importance of the Kashmir dispute if the peace is established in the region?  Fact of the matter is that by accepting CBMs sans resolution of the Kashmir dispute we are weakening our stand on this fundamental issue.  Not only we are providing more and more facilities to India, we are ending the justification for our nuclear and missile programs and for the acquisition of modern weapons.  By giving the impression of end of hostility with India we are providing the west an opportunity to question our defense capability." 


"Muzaffarabad-Srinagar Bus Service"


Center-right Urdu-language Pakistan argued (2/18):  "Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service is a big decision for which India has apparently demonstrated flexibility.  Until now India was adamant on the condition of passport for travel between two sides of Kashmir....  On principle there is a consensus on travel facility for the people living in the two sides of Kashmir.  Kashmiris have this desire for freely meeting the Kashmiris of the other side....   America has welcomed the announcement for the bus service and described it as a revolutionary step.  Hurriyat Conference Chairman Mir Waiz Umar Farooq and another APHC leader, former Chairman Abdul Ghani Bhutt have welcomed the decision.  However, Chairman of a faction of APHC Syed Ali Gillani has disliked the decision....  We should expect resolution of the Kashmir dispute through the CBMs taken and should not consider these CBMs as an end to the issue."


"Pak-India Agreement On The Muzaffarabad-Srinagar Bus Service”


Populist Urdu-language Khabrain said (2/18):  "Although no breakthrough was expected on Kashmir during the Indian Foreign Minister’s trip to Pakistan yet there was very little discussion on the issue although this was a good opportunity to discuss it.  There is no harm in taking confidence-building measures yet it must not be ignored that all these efforts must move in the direction of finding a solution to the Kashmir issue." 


"A Turning Point?"


Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn (2/18):  "In what can be described as a breakthrough in the India-Pakistan composite dialogue, the two sides have reached an agreement on key issues that should hopefully help break the logjam in their relationship....  It has been pointed out by some observers of the scene that the core issue of Kashmir remains untouched and the Baglihar dam, which has now emerged as a major concern for Pakistan, has not been taken up either.  No doubt, these are important matters but in diplomacy it is not always possible or desirable to prioritize items on the agenda.  Besides, negotiations do not always move in a linear direction."


"Landmark Accord"


The centrist national English-language News commented (2/18):  "The landmark agreement between Pakistan and India to allow bus travel across the otherwise thorny line of control indeed reflects seriousness of the two South Asian nuclear neighbors to attain durable peace in the region.  While the accord is undoubtedly a welcome sign that will open further opportunities for Islamabad and New Delhi to cement their newly found amity, it has also allayed the fears of setbacks on the peace front that had cropped up after the failure of the two countries to resolve their differences over the Baglihar Dam.  That the peace process is well on track and moving in the right direction is certainly heartening....  It is now the responsibility of the two governments as well as the people of India and Pakistan to build on the good sense that is prevailing.  Any measures like indulgence in arms shopping or investments in threatening military technology may only lead to fears and tensions that could spoil the atmosphere of congeniality.  The road ahead is still long and arduous.  It will take careful maneuvering to take the two countries to the destination of peaceful co-existence and sustainable peace."


"LoC Bus"


The center-right national English-language Nation asserted (2/17):  "Pakistan’s resistance to the Indian demand that passengers should travel on their passports in the proposed Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus service finally paid off when Kunwar Natwar Singh agreed, in a meeting with Mr. Khurshid Kasuri on Wednesday, to drop it in favor of permits.  The bus service will begin operating across the LoC from April 7.  Although welcome, the decision could hardly be called a breakthrough.  The proposal about starting a bus service between Lahore and Amritsar was also supposed to have come under discussion....  The bus service would touch only a fringe of the Kashmiris’ problems.  The untold suffering they have to bear at the hands of the 700,000-strong occupation forces seem to have grown in intensity since Mr. Vajpayee extended ‘his hand of friendship’ to Islamabad."


"Good Tidings On The Pak-India Front"


The Lahore-based liberal English-language Daily Times (2/17):  "Unless we change the paradigm of rejection and replace it with that of discussion, we will not be able to restore mutual trust and confidence.  And unless that happens we can say goodbye to resolution of any disputes, “core” or “non-core”.  India and Pakistan have tried conflict; now they should give engagement a chance.  India should see in the gas pipeline project of Pakistan an earnest linking of Pakistan’s prosperity to the prosperity of India.  Pakistan should perceive India’s acceptance of the pipeline as a signal of trust and confidence that will finally resolve the Baglihar Dam category of problems where fear more that objective factors propels both parties.  Pakistan should now move forward to create more space for engagement of the two economies."




JAPAN:  "Indian Concession Helps Kashmir Bus Link"


A commentary in liberal Mainichi read (2/17):  "India and Pakistan agreed Wednesday to resume a direct bus link across their military border starting in April.  The agreement came following New Delhi's agreement to make a concession, a decision that appears to have been made in order to boost its bid for a permanent seat on the UNSC and to demonstrate that India is willing to contribute to regional stability.  India's latest compromise signals a move toward normalization of ties with Islamabad and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute....  The Indian government likely concluded that the prolonged dispute over Kashmir would become an obstacle to its bid for permanent U.N. membership."   




UAE:  "Time To Move Relations Forward"


The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News declared (2/18):  "India and Pakistan must continue talks in the current spirit of give and take After months of haggling over minutiae, India and Pakistan have made the grand gesture. By dropping their insistence on passports as travel documents to restart a vital bus route, Delhi signalled it will no longer allow this issue to stand in the way of moving relations forward.  Pakistan's reservations are simple a passport to travel across the Line of Control would give legitimacy to a border that Islamabad sees as unacceptable.  An entry permit stamped by a district level official on either side, however, does not impinge on sovereignty, geography or effect the locus standi of both parties.  Travellers will still be vetted by their respective foreign ministries but there's a determination to cut through the chaff here that hasn't been seen in a while.  Natwar Singh's visit, the first in 15 years was also marked by Pakistan making a major concession of its own not insisting that Kashmir is the core issue, a phrase that has sunk many a summit in the past.  The bus will be followed by a rail link in October. A gas pipeline is also on the cards. Differences over water-sharing must be tackled in the same spirit of give and take, laying the ground someday for the big one Kashmir."



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