Pakistani analysts hawkish on Kashmir, media positive on talks

May 21st, 2008 - 11:55 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Manish Chand
Islamabad, May 21 (IANS) Leading Pakistani dailies and analysts have struck a cautiously optimistic note on the resumption of the peace process between India and Pakistan, but remained sceptical of any breakthrough on tricky issues with some blaming India for its attempts to sidetrack the Kashmir issue by talking of confidence building measures (CBM) and trade instead. “There is a broad strategic consensus in Pakistan on taking forward peace process with India. But we are a bit fed up with finger-pointing every time there are terrorist attacks in India,” Shireen Mazari, an eminent strategic analyst, told IANS.

She was alluding to Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s remarks here Tuesday when he asked Pakistan to join hands with India in the fight against terror and reminded Pakistani leaders that the future of the engagement will depend on an atmosphere free from terror and violence.

Mazari, however, welcomed efforts by both sides to resolve the issue of prisoners in each other’s territory in a humane manner.

The issue figured prominently in discussions between India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir Tuesday when the two officials reviewed the progress in the fourth round of composite dialogue and discussed various issues, including Kashmir and cross-border CBMs.

Ayaz Amir, an influential columnist and a Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) member of the National Assembly, was unusually hawkish.

“There is no peace process going on. What was happening under the Pervez Musharraf administration was a series of unilateral gestures with no matching response from the Indian side,” Amir told IANS.

“The present government in Pakistan is yet to pay sustained attention to Kashmir,” Amir said, while expressing his scepticism about a breakthrough on the Kashmir issue over which India and Pakistan have fought three wars.

However, leading newspapers in Pakistan took a more positive view of the resumption of the peace process that slowed down last year due to political turmoil in Pakistan.

Taking note of the positive atmosphere during the Menon-Bashir talks Tuesday, The News led with a front-page article headlined: “Pak-India negotiations get off (to) a flying start.” The daily was, however, critical of the Indian attempts to sidetrack what Pakistan considers the “core issue” of Kashmir.

An editorial in The Nation also criticised India’s “lip service to the resolution of the Kashmir issue” and warned the Pakistani leadership of “the Indian strategy of asking for more confidence-building measures… before the Kashmir dispute could be heaved out (of) the backburner.”

“As a result, none of the contentious issues listed under the composite dialogue has made any decisive headway,” said the editorial.

Likewise, a front-page report in Dawn took note of the likely agreement on consular access to prisoners in each other’s jails but was sceptical of any “significant progress on any of the substantive issues.”

“Both sides admit that they have a long way to go before resolving major disputes - from the trickiest one of Kashmir to less problematic ones like Sir Creek,” the report said.

Writing an op-ed piece in The News, Naseem Zehra, a security analyst, underlined the continuity rather than change in the Pakistan government’s policy towards India which, she stressed, flowed from a strategic consensus that cooperation with India is in Pakistan’s own interests.

But at the same time, Zehra stressed on “the prevailing subtext of distrust and cunning” in India-Pakistan relations that can only be overcome by “an immediate movement on some aspects of the Kashmir dispute”.

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