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SHIFTING GROUNDS

With the beginning of the countdown for the 2013 general elections, a new energy seems to have gripped Pakistan. Nowhere is this more apparent than in its attempt to normalize relations with India. Having given up its insistence on the resumption of the composite dialogue, Pakistan is now keen to work on what it calls “convergences”. More surprisingly, it does not seem to mind following India in a “step by step” approach to resolving disputes. The grant of the most-favoured-nation status to India in 2011, the shift to a negative list for bilateral trade, the liberalization of the visa regime and facilitation of people-to-people contact — the last exemplified as much by the regular flow of visitors across the Wagah border as by the recent red-carpet welcome accorded to the Bihar chief minister — show a degree of sincerity that has been rarely matched before. However, Pakistan’s refusal to follow up on the 26/11 trial has stuck out as a sore thumb in all this. But there is a flicker of hope on that score as well. Pakistan’s investigators have informed the anti-terrorism court handling the so far botched trial of the 26/11 accused that the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre of 2008 were trained at camps run by the Lashkar-e-Toiba. The admission has been severely contested and there is every chance that the investigators might fail to provide fool-proof evidence for their case. But the fact that Pakistan is no longer hesitant about pointing fingers at the LeT is an undeniably healthy indicator. If the authorities allow the proposed amendments to the evidence laws that will enable the collection of the voice samples of the accused apart from facilitating a speedy trial, there might be the breakthrough in the trial that India has been waiting for. That could even serve as the backdrop of the much-awaited visit of India’s prime minister to Pakistan.

It is possible that these developments will turn out to be a good public relations exercise preceding the visit of Pakistan’s interior minister, Rehman Malik, to India to sign the visa liberalization pact. But it is foolhardy to ignore the larger picture in Pakistan which has suddenly turned favourable for better bilateral ties. The judiciary’s snubbing of the army, the public outcry against terrorism, the dawning realization of India’s role in furthering Pakistan’s commercial interests in the region are all contributing to a hope for change. India should do its bit to shore up this hope.