Delhi/Islamabad: With the talks between the foreign
secretaries of India and Pakistan ending with a decision to
explore more cross-Kashmir CBMs, the focus has now shifted to the
unfolding Afghan great game and how it will influence the course
of the resumed dialogue process between the two estranged
The two-day talks between Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao
and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir that ended in
Islamabad Friday took place in the shadow of US President Barack
Obama's announcement of a phased drawdown of troops from
Afghanistan that included the return of 10,000 troops by the end
of the year and another 23,000 in 2012.
In his speech, much to India's comfort, Obama spared no words in
warning Pakistan to dismantle the "safe havens" of terror, thereby
putting the spotlight on Islamabad's increasingly important role
in influencing the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
"Our efforts must also address terrorist safe-havens in Pakistan.
No country is more endangered by the presence of violent
extremists, which is why we will continue to press Pakistan to
expand its participation...and we will insist that it keep its
commitments," said Obama.
It was a clear message to Pakistan that its military-intelligence
establishment that is widely suspected of nurturing the Taliban
and using militants as strategic assets will be under under closer
scrutiny than before.
The US, therefore, noted approvingly efforts by India and Pakistan
to continue the dialogue process that was frozen for over two
years since 26/11 attacks till both sides decided to resume it in
The spotlight is now clearly on the Afghan factor.
In her testimony to a Congressional panel, US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton spoke about how Afghanistan was at the centre of
rivalry between India and Pakistan.
She stressed that Pakistan does not want Afghanistan to become a
satellite of India. "So it (Pakistan) has in the past invested in
a certain amount of instability in Afghanistan," she said in her
testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In a sense, the course of India-Pakistan relations and the revived
engagement will depend on what happens in Afghanistan, said G.
Parthasarathy, a former Indian envoy to Pakistan. "If the jihad
instigated by Pakistan succeeds, there is nothing that is going to
prevent them from turning in on us," Parthasarathy told IANS.
"Right now, they are under enormous pressure from the US to engage
with India and to deliver on terror," said Parthasarathy, adding
that the engagement with India will deprive Pakistan of their
favourite excuse not to concentrate on combating the Taliban in
"This engagement is taking place without any forward movement by
Pakistan on terror or 26/11 trial," said Satish Chandra, a former
deputy national security adviser and a former Indian envoy to
"The talks were based on the premise that it helps to have a modus
vivendi with Pakistan regardless of whether they deliver on
terror," he said. "Like it or not, Pakistan is going to be a key
player in the Afghan settlement and the talks were a recognition
of that reality," stressed Chandra.
In the talks that ended Friday, the two sides managed to keep up a
brave front by agreeing to bridge divergences as they decided to
explore a slew of confidence-building measures to enhance travel
and trade across the ceasefire line dividing the two halves of
Expect more fire on Kashmir when the foreign ministers of India
and Pakistan meet in New Delhi in July.
(Manish Chand can be
contacted at email@example.com)