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Why does Pakistan respond cautiously to India's peace proposals

Why does Pakistan respond cautiously to India's peace proposals

Publication: Xinhuanet
Date: October 24, 2003
URL: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2003-10/24/content_1142007.htm

Unlike its response to India's earlier offer of talks, Pakistan has reacted with disappointment and caution to New Delhi's new package of peace proposals which does not include dialogues and negotiations on Kashmir between the two arch rivals.

Indian External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha on Wednesday surprisingly announced 12 proposals to help New Delhi normalize its relations with Islamabad after a Cabinet security meeting chaired by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The proposals include resuming talks to restore bilateral civilaviation links, including overflight rights, discussing resumption of rail links following aviation talks, resuming bilateral sporting encounters and starting bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, the respective capitals of Indian- and Pakistan-held portions of Kashmir.

Such a move has invited appreciation in both India and the West. Indian media termed the proposals a "roadmap" designed to solve gradually all outstanding issues between the two neighbors. The United States, Britain and Japan welcomed them as "a major step forward," hoping this can promote improvement in the tense Pak-India relations.

In a quick response, Pakistani Foreign Ministry on Wednesday said in a statement that New Delhi's proposals will "receive serious consideration," but Islamabad is "disappointed" that Indiahas rejected its offer "to resume a substantive and sustained dialogue to resolve all issues, especially the dispute over Kashmir," which Pakistan calls the core of its 55-year conflict with India.

"We hope that India will reconsider its position on the resumption of the composite talks as some of the proposals made by India today are already integral to the composite dialogue process," said the statement.

Pakistani leadership has remained silent on India's proposals in the past two days. Making no reference to New Delhi's overtures, President Pervez Musharraf on Thursday stressed that the balance of power in South Asia can not be allowed to be disturbed and in view of India's intransigence and refusal to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Islamabad for a solution to the disputes including the core issue of Kashmir, it is a "no-win scenario" forIndia.

Neither did Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali say anything about the proposals when he addressed a press conference Thursday on his return from a three-day visit to Iran, which differs greatly with his response to Vajpayee's offer of talks made on April 18. Jamali reacted with Vajpayee hecticly then, talking personally on telephone with the Indian leader, inviting him to visit Islamabad and initiating six confidence-building measures.

Analysts and the media here observed that Pakistan's cautious response to the India's proposals are obviously based on the following reasons:

Firstly, the Pakistani side does not think New Delhi is sincereto improve its relations with Islamabad without offering composite and sustained talks on Kashmir. Islamabad has reiterated its stand that the Kashmir issue can not be sidelined in any engagement withIndia.

The long-awaited dialogue proposed in April by Vajpayee has not taken place since India insists that talks can only restart if Pakistan stops sponsoring "cross-border terrorism" in Kashmir. It is not strange that during the 10th summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference held on Oct. 16-17 in Malaysia, Musharraf told reporters, "The dialogue between Indian and Pakistan has not started. India is only playing games."

Secondly, Pakistan maintains vigilance against India's intention. The proposal to start bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad may entail establishing an immigration post on the Line of Control (LoC), the ceasefire line in Kashmir, which would result in a border control. Pakistan has openly and strongly opposed to any proposal for turning the LoC into a permanent border and may see it as an attempt to project this idea.

In fear of being sidelined in any coming talks on Kashmir, Pakistan may not be happy with India's decision made at the Wednesday meeting that New Delhi is willing to hold its first talks with a Kashmiri separatist group, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC). APHC consisting of 27 political and community groups seeks a plebiscite to determine the status of Kashmir.

Thirdly, some proposals seem conditional to Islamabad and it might be reluctant to accept them. On the issue of air links, for example, India said it will be ready to begin technical-level talks on the restoration of train service between the two countries on which Pakistan prefers giving priority only when the talks on air links and over-flights are to prove successful.

Pakistan is unlikely to come down from its position of seeking guarantees against unilateral withdrawal of the facility by means of a mutual undertaking by both sides through a joint declaration.

An article published Friday in the country's most influential English newspaper Dawn said that Pakistan is likely to have "serious reservations" on some of India's proposals and its "guarded response" laced with disappointment over excluding an offer of composite dialogue is a clear indication.

Furthermore, some analysts argued that the Indian government put forward new peace proposals in order to gain more support for the ruling alliance in the state elections to be held in December and the general elections scheduled for next year.

While English newspaper the Nation Friday said in an editorial that India's overtures are a "well- crafted diplomatic move aimed at silencing international criticism of New Delhi's refusal to hold parleys with Islamabad."

After the partition in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought twolarge-scale wars on Kashmir. The two neighbors missed a nuclear war after the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament building in December 2001, which was followed by downgrading of diplomatic ties and discontinuation of trade as well as land and air links.

Pakistan and India have resumed their ambassadorial ties in the past months to end an 18-month stalemate. But they have failed to restart a dialogue for resolving their disputes and normalizing their relations due to no-confidence, hostility and strong objection from the hardliners in both countries.

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