New Delhi: In a visit to the White House this week, Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif plans to discuss India peace efforts with US President Barack Obama.
The 22 October meeting comes shortly after India discarded Sharif’s latest peace proposal, which he presented in a speech to the United Nations in New York.
Just how groundbreaking was Sharif’s olive branch?
“Much of what Sharif said was not new," said Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “His motivation for making that presentation at the UN was not really out of a genuine desire for peace in Kashmir, but more simply to get this issue on the front burner again."
Nuclear neighbours India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Muslim-majority Kashmir since they split up in 1947. Pakistan has repeatedly called for a referendum so residents can choose which country to join, a move India opposes because it could lead to a loss of territory.
“Three generations of Kashmiris have only seen broken promises and brutal oppression," Sharif said at the UN on 30 September. “This is the most persistent failure of the United Nations."
Sharif’s proposal consisted of four points:
* Enforce a 2003 ceasefire along the line of control in Kashmir
* Withdraw troops and weapons from Kashmir
* An unconditional, mutual withdrawal from the Siachen Glacier, where troops have faced off for more than three decades at heights of up to 6,700 metersand temperatures reaching minus 60 degrees Celsius
* Pledge not to use or threaten force under any circumstances
It took less than 24 hours for India to reject the proposal. “We do not need four points, we need just one—give up terrorism and let us sit down and talk," Sushma Swaraj, India’s foreign minister, said in her own speech.
The tone is sharply different from last year, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Sharif to attend his inauguration. Both sides are now violating the 2003 ceasefire in Kashmir nearly three times more frequently than they were in 2011, and they’ve twice scrapped high-level talks at the last minute.
Ties are still burdened by a 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai that killed 164 people. India blames Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and says that Sharif’s government hasn’t done enough to crack down on the group. In April, an Islamabad court released Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind behind the attack.
“India has a very stringent position—it’s not even willing to talk about Kashmir until Pakistan does more about terrorism," Kugelman said. “That’s the position that’s going to remain constant, and a reason why we shouldn’t invest so much significance in Sharif’s proposal."
Here’s a look at India-Pakistan peace efforts:
1972: The Simla Agreement pledges to end conflict in Kashmir and settle disputes by peaceful means. The countries designate a new boundary, known as the Line of Control, which they vow not to unilaterally alter.
1998: The “Composite Dialogue" calls for peace talks between top officials to address eight areas, including Kashmir, withdrawal from the Siachen Glacier, terrorism, and economic cooperation.
1999: Lahore Declaration reaffirms the Simla Agreement. The countries vowed to take immediate steps to avoid the accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons.
2003: Agree to a ceasefire along the Line of Control
2004: Then-Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in comments to Pakistani journalists, calls for demilitarizing Kashmir and suggests Pakistan should consider options besides a plebiscite in Kashmir.
2005: Musharraf and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tell reporters that the peace process between the two countries is “irreversible" and they are working toward a “final settlement" on Kashmir. Bloomberg