This NY Times report on the makings of a “thaw” in Pakistan-India relations is certainly the storyline Washington is hoping for. The problem is that India feels like Pakistan isn’t doing enough to fight terrorism, Pakistan feels that no one is doing more to fight terrorism, and both sides are to a large degree right. President Barack Obama’s initial hopes to play the peacemaker between the two was a non-starter with India. And as Siddarth Srivastava points out in his WPR Briefing, the subsequent pivot to bring Pakistan more explicitly on board with the U.S. counterterrorism approach is increasingly perceived in New Delhi as favoritism.
Yesterday’s closed-door meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Ali Zardari is a good start (although next time they might want to close the doors before Singh tears Zardari out a new one sets off a diplomatic incident). But despite the Times’ optimism, this is a painstaking process with multiple kill-switches at every step along the way.
One thing to note, though, is that Singh expressed India’s willingness, in the event of Pakistani resolve against terrorism, to meet Pakistan “more than half the way.” But from the press accounts of the meeting, I definitely got the sense that of the two, Zardari is the more motivated to get a deal done. Could it be because Singh just won a landslide in parliamentary elections, while Zardari’s got multiple insurgencies, an insolvent treasury, and an uncertain grip on power in the face of the opposition and the military all waiting for him back home?
Still, I don’t get the feeling Zardari’s the worrying kind. From what I hear, since assuming office, his nickname, which used to be “Mr. 10 Percent,” was upgraded to “Mr. 20 Percent.” So I imagine he’s got a pretty healthy nest egg tucked away in the event he finds himself out of a job.