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Pakistani Media Eye Recent Overtures With India


Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (left) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 29.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (left) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 29.

The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met in New York on September 29 against a backdrop of hope for a lasting peace between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

With the weekend handshake approaching between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, Pakistani and Indian newscasters were busy speculating on the future course of relations.

Three major issues were on the anvil: terrorism, Kashmir, and Balochistan.

But with public sentiment presenting obstacles in both countries, those high hopes appeared to come to naught.

In India, parliamentary elections are due early next year and the perception of a soft stance vis-a-vis Pakistan could punish the ruling Indian National Congress.

In Pakistan, the powerful security establishment wields considerable influence when it comes to Pakistan's relations with India, and crossing the line can prove costly for Pakistan's elected rulers.

Discussing the key issues between India and Pakistan, leading Pakistani Urdu-language newspaper "Jang" writes in a September 30 editorial that the two sides need to revive the process that broke down in 1999.

Then-Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart at the time, Nawaz Sharif, signed the Lahore Declaration, under which they have agreed to devise a road map for resolving all the contentious issues between the two countries.

They key problem hampering India-Pakistan ties over the past 66 years is the disputed status of Kashmir. Each country accuses the other of forcefully occupying the territory in the valley of Kashmir.

Commenting on the same issue, another Pakistani Urdu-language newspaper, "Daily Express," says the Indian prime minister, instead of extending a hand of friendship to Pakistan, accused the country of supporting terrorism and called Kashmir "an integral part of India."

"Daily Express" suggests that if the two countries are really interested in overcoming the widespread poverty, they should set aside their enmities and focus on the promotion of peace.

"Daily Mashriq," another Urdu-language newspaper, adopting a tougher stance, writing in its editorial that Kashmir is not an integral part of India, as suggested by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address last week to the UN General Assembly.

Had that been the case, the paper asked, why did Kashmiris need to sacrifice thousands of lives to win the right of self-determination?

India accuses Pakistan of supporting militancy in Indian-controlled Kashmir. In response, Pakistan says the Kashmiris' struggle is indigenous.

In contrast to the more conservative Urdu-language press, English-language newspapers mostly concluded their lead editorials on positive notes.

"Dawn" newspaper, in its September 30 editorial, writes that "improving the India-Pakistan equation will depend on tremendous political will by each country's political leadership. Much was expected of Mr Sharif in this regard, but so far he's preferred to play his hand very carefully, almost to the point of inaction."

"The News International," in its editorial under the title "The Net Positive," says the Indian prime minister's speech at the UN General Assembly and his meeting with U.S. President Barrack Obama were disastrous for the mood of meeting.

"On a heartening note, both leaders invited each other for visits although a note of realism crept in when they decided that it would not be possible to schedule any meeting in the current climate of mistrust. Still, that Pakistan and India decided to continue with talks at a time when hawks on both sides are more vociferous than ever should still be seen as a net positive," "The News International" concludes.

"Daily Times" praises the meeting between the two prime ministers and says "the intent to move forward provides a befitting response to all the negative forces that had been designing ill-will around the relationship ever since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced his intent to mend fences with India."

Referring to Pakistan's urge for peace and the Indian foreign minister's statement regarding role of Pakistan army in the country's peace bids toward Indian, "Daily Times" writes that "Pakistan's India-centric approach had of late been dismantled as the internal threat mounted pressure on its law enforcement and security forces to first put its own house in order."

-- Daud Khattak

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