‘Repairing damage of terror strikes on India challenge for Pakistan’

August 25th, 2008 - 12:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 25 (IANS) Repairing the “damage” caused by the terror strike on the Indian embassy in Kabul and by the frequent skirmishes along the Kashmir frontier pose a “challenge” for the new Pakistani government, an editorial in a leading English newspaper said Monday.”Recent acts of terrorism in Kabul against the Indian embassy there and in Indian cities have led to a new trade of accusations. Islamabad has denied involvement. Skirmishes along the LoC (Line of Control in Kashmir) have added to mounting tensions,” the editorial in The News said.

“The challenge for the new coalition government is to see if it can repair the immediate damage and move towards constructing a stronger relationship with India,” it added.

In this context, the editorial noted: “Establishing itself as a stable, cohesive force at home would be a vital step in this task.

“Only a government that is firmly in control of its own helm can hope to enter into talks with a potentially hostile neighbour with any degree of success,” The News maintained.

At the same time, it said that to establish “any kind of lasting harmony”, the government must also move beyond the efforts made by former president Pervez Musharraf, who stepped down last week.

“Some of his actions seem to have been largely cosmetic. Even where his own will to move forward was strong he was thwarted by others adopting a more hawkish line.

“The conviction that jihad in Kashmir needs backing remains strongly rooted in some quarters,” the newspaper said.

As a government elected by people, the coalition “needs to challenge this mindset - and persuade people that evolving a new relationship of trust and cooperation with India is vital, in the longer-run, to the safety and welfare of the people of the region, no matter which country or territory they live in”, it said.

It also noted that India “has been one of the few countries” from where “some voices of disquiet have surfaced” after Musharraf’s exit.

Since 2000, it said Musharraf had “worked actively to build closer ties with Pakistan’s giant neighbour to the east.

“His visit to Agra in the summer of 2001 had helped relations move many paces forward. Even a breakthrough on Kashmir looked possible at one stage and there was early hope of a complete turnaround in relations between the neighbours who had fought two wars since independence.

“The fact that Musharraf, who had participated in hostilities, was willing to abandon the traditional military view on India was seen as significant,” the editorial maintained.

It also said that many believed that the presence of two hard-liners on either side of the border - the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Indian prime minister at the time - could make it possible for hard decisions, for which other leaders would immediately come under strong domestic criticism.

However, “the early hope of Agra faded. The fact that Musharraf was not an elected leader hindered talks. But, despite this, with some help from his friends in the White House and elsewhere, Musharraf was also able to help dissipate the alarming tensions that emerged following the December 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament”, the newspaper said.

Most important, it said, was Musharraf’s “agreement” to “roll back a policy of militancy in Kashmir.

“The Indians had long argued that jihadi outfits in the disputed territory were backed by Pakistan’s establishment. At least on paper, the activities of militant militias were largely halted.

“The period of relative calm in Kashmir made it possible for people to move back to border villages, for divided families to meet and for movement across the border to take place. Similar confidence-building measures slightly eased travel between Pakistan and India, tensions were lowered and over the last year, selected Indian films have played in Pakistan,” the newspaper said.

On the surface at least, it noted, that Musharraf’s policy on India “seems to have been a success. But there have been alarming indications that much of what has happened since 2001 is cosmetic.

“Reports since 2005 say the jihadi outfits are still being retained and covertly supported. Indeed some of these groups surfaced quite openly in the aftermath of the October 2005 earthquake, their relief efforts suggesting they remained well-organised and well-equipped armies of militants.

“Their presence has led to concerns over whether there is any real change on policy towards India. The consequences of this reality have now been left to the coalition government to tackle,” the editorial contended.

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