Zardari’s UN Speech Stalled Singh visit?

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New Delhi – Has President Asif Ali Zardari’s reference to the Kashmir dispute in his UN speech spoiled the chances of an early visit to Pakistan by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?

The Hindustan Times said on Sunday it could be one of the factors in New Delhi’s calculations not to press the accelerator for a summit. No official decision has so far been announced though.

“Officials in the know in Delhi aren’t sanguine about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting Pakistan in the near future,” the paper said in a report which for the first time cited “officials” rather than “sources”.

“They cite many reasons for it, notable among them being the lack of domestic support for scaling up dialogue without tangible progress on disputes dealt directly by the Pakistan army,” the paper said.

“There isn’t much enthusiasm for upgrading talks even in our Punjab that’s usually receptive to peace initiatives,” said an official.

He felt a summit-level visit can be helpful to the bilateral process only when there’s something to show to the people by way of achievement.

“Visible movement is there on issues on which the army has given the PPP-led civilian regime a relatively free hand – improved visa regimes, promotion of trade and people-to-people contact,” the paper said.

But there has been no substantive progress on combating cross-border terrorism, Siachen, Sir Creek or Afghanistan “that are under the GHQ’s charge”, it quoted a well-placed source as saying.

The paper says that the Pakistan army has returned to its original plank of self-determination for Kashmiris as envisaged under the relevant UN resolutions that India believes have been superseded by the Shimla Pact, the essence of which is bilateralism.

“A reflection of it was found in President Asif Zardari’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly, in which he referred to the Kashmir

dispute symbolising the failure of the UN process.”

His comments met with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s rebuttal, reiterating New Delhi’s standard formulation of Kashmir being an integral part of India.

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