Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is being pilloried by hardliners at home for attempting to build bridges, but, in Pakistan, there’s support for his bold initiative to engage Islamabad.
“I think he comes across as a level-headed leader, who is cognisant of the risks he’s taking by engaging with Pakistan,” said Imtiaz Gul, chairperson of the Islamabad-based Centre for Regional and Security Studies.
Gul, however, felt that Singh had retained a “pressure tool” by asserting that the dialogue process would resume at a time of India’s choosing when it felt that Pakistan was doing enough to tackle terrorist elements.
“Manmohan Singh is a much more confident leader today. But he has very little choice but to talk to Pakistan. This is an Indian government which is under the influence of the United States,” Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent security analyst, said by telephone from Islamabad.
Siddiqa believed that many elements of Thursday’s joint statement were open to interpretation.
However, Singh had realised that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani rather than President Asif Ali Zardari had the support of the Pakistani establishment.
“It is the PM who has the right quarters behind him,” she added, referring to the permanent establishment in Pakistan that comprises the intelligences agencies and the military.
S Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based analyst, felt that India had to acknowledge that Pakistan, the intelligence establishment and groups like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba were not going to go away.
Zaidi was clear that Pakistan’s establishment would not pursue the cases against the Laskhar accused responsible for the Mumbai 26/11 attacks.
“There can be another Kargil or Mumbai. This is not India’s tragedy, but Pakistan’s tragedy,” he warned.
According to Zaidi, Pakistan would gain more from having better relations with India. Given the isolation Pakistan currently faced, dialogue with India would help Islamabad gain regional acceptability.
In an editorial published on Saturday, The News argued that India needed to stop supporting insurgencies in Pakistan, such as the one underway in Balochistan, and Pakistan needed to be sincere in its effort to stymie any terror attempt in India that may in any way be linked to Pakistani soil.
“That Balochistan was mentioned in the joint statement is a big step towards admitting mistakes and moving on,” the paper added.
Writing in the Dawn newspaper, Ayseha Siddiqa felt that in the current environment little progress could be made in India-Pakistan relations. “Given the highs and lows of our bilateral engagement, there is little that the two establishments expect from each other.”