India and Pakistan (Barely) Talk
Editorial, New York Times, February 26, 2010
Low expectations for the first talks between India and Pakistan since the 2008 bombings in Mumbai were disappointingly on the mark. After the two sides met Thursday, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao of India said that she agreed only to “keep in touch” with her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir. No future discussions were scheduled.
That is not enough. Not for the United States, which needs tensions eased so Pakistan can focus more on fighting the Taliban and other extremists. And especially not for India and Pakistan.
India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, showed remarkable restraint when he decided not to lash back at Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks. But the situation is too dangerous to depend on one man’s restraint. For the sake of both countries’ security, they need a sustained dialogue and a sincere common effort to build trust.
The two have much to talk about, including terrorism, their nuclear rivalry, Kashmir and their counterproductive competition for influence in Afghanistan.
As Thursday proved, progress won’t be easy. India is focused solely on Pakistan’s support for extremist groups trying to force India out of Muslim-majority Kashmir. Pakistan, which certainly must do more to rein in extremists, wants a broader dialogue, with the priority being Kashmir’s future. Neither nation is showing interest in adding Afghanistan to the agenda. They should.
While the Afghan Taliban — nurtured by Pakistani intelligence as a hedge against India — is battling American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the Pakistan Taliban is fighting to bring down the Pakistan state. Lashkar-e-Taiba — founded with help from Pakistani intelligence to fight Indian rule in Kashmir — has been held responsible for the Mumbai bombings and is attacking other Indian targets.
In 2007, after three years of secret negotiations, the two sides were reportedly close to a deal to create an autonomous, demilitarized region in Kashmir. That ended when President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan resigned in 2008. The initiative should be revived. Meanwhile, the two governments should share information on troop movements in Kashmir and encourage trade and people-to-people exchanges. Talks on water and environmental issues are another way to seek common ground.
The administration knows how important it is for India and Pakistan to lower tensions. At India’s insistence, it has decided to take a low profile role, nudging the two sides discreetly back to the table. It should nudge harder.
India-Pakistan talks end in acrimony - Telegraph
Can India And Pakistan Fight Terror Together? - Pervez Hoodbhoy
Obama and India-Pakistan talks: US can be a better go-between - Christian Science Monitor