Vajpayee’s ‘peace offers’ hailed in Delhi, slammed in Islamabad
NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was on Thursday hailed as “genius” by Indian analysts for his new 12-point peace plan but slammed as dishonest by their counterparts in Pakistan.
“The peace initiative has Vajpayee’s statesmanship stamped all over it,” said Indian writer and political analyst Jyoti Malhotra in New Delhi. “In reviving the peace process Vajpayee is genuine about wanting to alleviate the pain of partition, which saw so much Hindu-Muslim bloodletting,” he said.
Mr Malhotra said the Indian prime minister’s “genius” could be seen in an offer of a bus service from Srinagar to Muzzafarabad. “The offer to run a bus service along the Line of Control will turn it into an informal boundary ... This means that you are actually ... accepting the division of Kashmir,” he said.
Pakistan opposes the transformation of the LoC, the 1948 ceasefire line, into an established boundary, arguing that such as move will blunt its claims over the Indian-administered zone of divided Kashmir.
The bus service is among 12 proposals unveiled by the Indian government Wednesday for normalising ties with Pakistan. Others include the resumption of full sporting ties, increased transport links and humanitarian assistance.
Separate to the package, the Indian government has announced a plan to engage in talks with Kashmir’s main separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, currently headed by a moderate.
Mr Malhotra said this move showed a “shrewd sense of strategy” because it allows Mr Vajpayee to address the Kashmir issue without engaging hardline pro-Pakistan factions. The initiative, however, is viewed much differently in Pakistan, where analysts on Thursday labelled it a cleverly camouflaged attempt to sidetrack substantive dialogue on the Kashmir dispute.
“The Indian proposals lack depth and sincerity to resolve the major issues like Kashmir,” political analyst and editor of The Friday Times weekly, Najam Sethi, told AFP. Mr Sethi said that while every small step to build mutual confidence was welcome, the proposals indicated India’s intent to “completely delink the Kashmir issue from the peace process with Pakistan”. This is backed up, he said, by India’s plan to engage in talks with Hurriyat.
“There is no mention of bringing Pakistan into a three-way dialogue and clearly the Indians mean to find their own solution to Kashmir in which Pakistan does not figure – that is the message that they are sending,” Mr Sethi said.
He said the proposed Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service betrayed a desire by India to convert the LoC into a permanent border.
In its initial reaction Pakistan said it would seriously consider the Indian package and respond positively to any proposals that are “substantive, unconditional and genuinely designed to improve relations”.
But it voiced disappointment over India’s rejection of Islamabad’s standing offer of talks to resolve all issues, including the Kashmir dispute.
“The Indians have repackaged previous proposals such as restoration of air and rail links and brought in some new points, which we will seriously take into account,” a Foreign Ministry official told AFP.
But Pakistani political analyst and writer Mohammad Afzal Niazi said the Indians had kept all substantive issues out of the package.
“What is important is not what is in the package, but what is not in the package,” Mr Niazi said, referring to Kashmir, Siachen and water-related disputes between the nuclear rivals. “They have deftly camouflaged their attempt to completely sideline Kashmir and dialogue.” —AFP