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US think tank in peace hope

New Delhi, Dec. 9: An influential American think tank has assessed that the Pakistani Army is solidly behind Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali’s attempt to restore peace with India.

With the support of the army, a key player in determining Pakistan’s foreign policy, the current peace process in South Asia has a better chance of succeeding, the think tank believes.

The process, it considers, is helped along by the growing mood among the people of Pakistan to improve relations with India and its businessmen’s confidence in competing with their Indian counterparts.

“Don’t expect short-term results, it is a long-term process,” former US ambassador to India Frank Wisner said, sounding both optimistic and cautious over the host of recent peace measures taken by the countries to improve bilateral relations.

Wisner, along with Nicholas Platt and Dennis Kux, is part of the think tank. All three are now touring India.

Wisner is also the vice-chairman of external affairs at the American International Group Incorporated, Platt is a former diplomat who is now chairman of the Asia Society and Klux a former ambassador to Pakistan.

A few days ago, the three were in Islamabad where they held a series of meetings with Pakistani leaders and military officials. Later, they visited Afghanistan.

The trio yesterday met national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and is expected to meet finance minister Jaswant Singh, senior foreign ministry officials and Kashmiri leaders.

The three are also part of a task force that recently came out with New Priorities in South Asia: US Policy towards India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, a report co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Asia Society.

The think tank has urged Pakistan to give up the primacy of Kashmir in improving bilateral ties. An “important test” for Islamabad in advancing the peace process would be ending cross-border terrorism and violence along the Line of Control, it has added.

Though optimistic about the recent developments, the task force has clarified that a major violent incident in Kashmir or elsewhere in India could still derail the peace process. “We have seen both sides rush pell-mell ahead and then hit a wall,” Platt said. “Our counsel is to make sure as you go ahead, you know your channels. Develop an approach to enable both sides to deal with all the issues, including that of Kashmir, simultaneously,” he added. “There was no scope for putting anything on the backburner. As one of them (issues) get cooked, you move on to the other.”

Though encouraged by what it heard in Pakistan, it said: “We want to make sure that this time it (the peace process) works.”

It may already be working because one of the Task Force’s recommendations in its report was a ceasefire along the LoC to cool the temperature in South Asia. Platt was quick to say: “We don’t take credit for the ceasefire.”

He added: “We are delighted to see that the ceasefire is holding and the beginnings of a process in which both sides are trying to outdo each other in moving along.”

He said the US was not a mediator, but only a facilitator. If the current initiative succeeded, Platt said, then the leadership of India and Pakistan would be required to pursue “quiet diplomacy” to address all outstanding issues.

The leadership, the trio said, have the “political will and ability to implement a detente” and the time, too, is right.

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