Vajpayee’s election defeat was unexpected and has come as a general shock for most Pakistanis. However, editorials in the main English language newspapers suggest that Pakistanis do not expect any major reversal in India’s foreign policy.
In any case, it is rare that a dramatic change brought about by elections results in India radically improves or worsens relations between the two countries. India’s policy towards Pakistan is a carefully crafted strategy which is based on extensive studies and calculations. It is not like our India policy which mainly depends on the thinking of the presiding leader. [The News/Jang]
Congress’s secular stance went down more favourably with the Muslim minority. Will the change at the helm in India mean a change in foreign policy directions as well? In Pakistan the main concern is understandably about the future of the peace dialogue which has just been launched.
From what has generally been stated by various party leaders, it appears that the government which takes over in New Delhi will sustain the BJP’s policy vis-a-vis Pakistan and Kashmir. Since this did not emerge as a major election issue in the campaign, one can safely assume that the Indian electorate favours peace with Pakistan. It can only be hoped that the BJP in opposition will not suddenly turn hawkish on this issue. [Dawn]
Najam Sethi of the Daily Times warns that some ‘unexpected hurdles’ may crop up and jeopardise the India-Pakistan peace process, causing Musharraf to resume cross-border terrorism in order to coerce the new Indian government to negotiate.
General Musharraf has already shown some impatience in wanting to move ahead with the composite dialogue while focusing on the ‘core’ issue of Kashmir. Now he will have to cool his heels a bit more. And if there is no meaningful headway with the Congress government before the summer is out, especially on Kashmir, he will come under pressure from his own side to open the jihadi tap again. If that happens, the whole process could unravel in decidedly unfriendly ways. [Daily Times]
Pakistanis generally expect some serious concessions from India over Kashmir during the peace talks slated for July-August this year. Musharraf may not want to antagonise the new government by immediately opening the jehadi tap, but if the talks end up with results not to his taste Kashmir could witness an upsurge in cross-border infiltration and terrorism.
The new government will then find itself negotiating with a gun to its head.