A direct bus service connecting the Pakistani and Indian parts of Kashmir were among the peace proposals put forward by Vajpayee last year. Pakistan initially appeared to reject this but subsequently agreed to discuss this proposal in the context of the Vajpayee-Musharraf joint declaration in Islamabad in January.
Just one day before they were supposed to take place, it has been announced that these discussions have been postponed, ostensibly due to scheduling problems.
This is the second indicator that Pakistan is having second thoughts about reaching a compromise with India over Kashmir. The bus service would have been a baby step in acknowledging that the Line of Control (LOC) is a de facto border between India and Pakistan. If this were the only concern, Pakistan could well have decided to go through with the bus service without prejudice to its stated position on the status of the LOC. The reality is that Pakistani government is worried that increasing people to people contacts will expose its propaganda about India’s excesses in Kashmir, and undermine its ambition to wrest the territory from India.
This does not bode well for the peace process. India’s reaction to Musharraf’s tirade and the postponement of talks has been muted. The danger is that the longer India waits before crying foul, the more Pakistan will be emboldened to harden its position.
What is being mistaken for a thawing of relations could turn out to be the melting of the Himalayan snows. Could the jehadis be far behind?
Peace process: the bumps ahead. Whatever might be the motivations of Gen. Musharraf, New Delhi must resist the temptation to press the panic button.[C Raja Mohan/The Hindu]