Can Pakistan move forward
suedasien.info - the information portal on South Asia
New Delhi reacted positively to the Ramadan initiative (named after the Islamic month of fasting) and expanded the offer to include the contested Siachen Glacier.
The current ceasefire is the most comprehensive agreement ever signed between India and Pakistan. For the first time, the scope includes the Line of Control as well as the Actual Ground Position Line. The latter divides the area of the Siachen Glacier, which is over 5000 meters high. The standstill of the fighting on the glacier is the first since the outbreak of the military conflict over the uninhabited mountain region in 1984.
The Indian government stressed that the durability of the agreement depends on Islamabad's willingness to prevent further militias from entering the Kashmir Valley.
Defense Secretary George Fernandes underlined that the ceasefire would only apply to Pakistani soldiers - members of militant groups crossing the border would continue to be persecuted by Indian security forces. At the same time, he was positive about the gradual rapprochement between India and Pakistan.
Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha confirmed Vajpayee's participation in the SAARC summit (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) in January 2004 in Islamabad. He again referred to the initiative of the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in April 2003 in Srinagar. At the time, the prime minister had accommodated Pakistan with a renewed offer of talks.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Kurshid Mehmood Kasuri, who was in Washington at the same time, emphasized the importance of talks between the two South Asian neighbors to his American counterpart Colin Powell. He reaffirmed the Pakistani government's intention to include all points of conflict - including Kashmir - in the talks.
President Musharraf, who recently received international criticism for Pakistan's terrorism policy, reaffirmed his readiness to fight terrorism and extremism. To what extent this includes groups operating in Kashmir from Pakistani soil, he left open.
Nevertheless, diplomatic observers see the ceasefire as promising. Political pressure on Pakistan from the American and European side had a decisive influence on the current development. US Secretary of State Powell welcomed Pakistan's Ramadan initiative. He classified it as an important measure and expressed confidence that the current development would lead to a serious dialogue.
Another reason for Islamabad's unexpected offer is the interest in successfully hosting the SAARC summit. The meeting of the South Asian heads of state and government is not only important for the Pakistani government for economic reasons. Due to the changed situation in Afghanistan and a slowly advancing consolidation process between China and India, Pakistan has to face the risk of possible isolation.
It remains unclear for the time being whether the ceasefire initiative will bring about a serious dialogue. Critics counter optimistic voices that the seriousness of the ceasefire declaration will only become clear in the spring. In the past, as the snow melted, the activities of the warring armies and militant organizations in the Himalayan region increased. So it will only become clear in a few weeks whether the development that has been initiated actually goes beyond the usual "diplomatic game" between the nuclear powers.
- It's very, very positive, in: The Indian Express, November 25, 2003
- Ceasefire in place, in: The Hindu, November 26, 2003
- Guns fall silent along the border, in: The Hindu, 11/27/2003
- B. Muralidhar Reddy: Softening stances, in: Frontline, Volume 20, Issue 25 (December 6-19, 2003), pp. 19-20
- John Cherian: A surge of optimism, in: Frontline, Volume 20, Issue 25 (December 6-19, 2003), pp. 21-22
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