Gilani regurgates Kashmir, spoils chances of a rapproachment

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Sharm-el-Sheikh (Egypt), July 15 (ANI): Barely into the second paragraph of his speech at the 15th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement at Sharm-el-Sheikh, Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani brought up the topic of Kashmir by saying "long standing unresolved disputes" were putting stress on international systems.

And, as if this hint was not enough, Gilani later in his speech said: "Durable peace in South Asia is achievable" and that it could only be "facilitated by the resolution of all outstanding disputes, including Jammu and Kashmir." his was not a soundbite or an off the cuff remark, which a Zardari or a Musharraf might have made. It is a well thought out and planned statement made by the Paksitani Prime MInister,knowing fully well what the repurcussions would be.

He is well aware that relations between India and Pakistan are just about limping towards a restart and to use the 'K' word in such a situation is nothing short of twisting of the arm like the one seen during the Agra summit of 2001.

At that time, President General Musharraf came with all his bluster and confidence that he could convince the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Behari Vajpayee to put into the joint declaration that Kashmir was a disputed territory.

The then Pakistani delegation was all but convinced that they had been able to soften the Indian Prime Minister and even his powerful aide, Brajesh Mishra. And then, all hell broke loose when India apparently made clear to the Pakistani side that Musharraf was mistaken in making this assumption.

While most people on either side of the border believe that the "unknown hand" that worked to scuttle the Agra talks, was the then home minister L.K.Advani, it is still unclear who managed to withstand the enormous international pressure and tell Pakistan where to get off.

In the past two days, it has become apparent that the war of words over how and in what format India and Pakistan should begin talking is what is vexing both sides. Pakistan hasn't forgotten the rap on the knuckles delivered by Prime Minister Singh to President Zardari at Yekatarinburg last month, when he said in the presence of the media that his mandate was to tell Pakistan not to allow its soil to be used by terrorists to wage war on India.

It was uncharacteristic of the Indian Prime Minister to make such a stringent remark, and sure enough, within a few weeks, the reasonable Dr Singh said: "Let me say that what I had said to Zardari Sahib, I had not intended to say that in the presence of the media. I simply forgot that the media were present there. It was not my intention to hurt Zardari Sahib's feelings."

But that kind of grace is not visible here at Sharm-el-Sheikh. Gilani is scheduled to meet the Indian Prime Minister for the first time tomorrow morning and a reasonable attitude could have furthered the cause of a fruitful dialogue at the very top.

But this speech of Gilani is a spoiler for sure. With the Pakistani press already saying that Foreign Secretary-level talks have hit a deadlock over the format for resumption of India-Pakistan talks, it is unclear what Gilani meant in his speech when he said, "There has recently been some forward movement in our relations with India. We hope to sustain this momentum and move towards comprehensive engagement." By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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