Meditation Focus #102

Nurturing Peace Between India and Pakistan and in East Asia



Hello,

What follows is the 102nd Meditation Focus suggested for the 2 weeks beginning Sunday, January 4, 2004.

NURTURING PEACE BETWEEN INDIA AND PAKISTAN AND IN EAST ASIA

1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information related to this Meditation Focus




SUMMARY

On the eve of a three-day summit beginning today in Islamabad, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has arrived in Pakistan for the first time in nearly five years ahead of a South Asian summit seen as a historic opportunity for India and Pakistan to cement recent peace overtures after a half-century of conflict. India's prime minister is most likely to meet Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of this summit. Pakistan is eager to hold direct talks with India to resolve the decades-old dispute over Kashmir and other issues. India says Pakistan must show it has stopped harboring Islamic militants, who attack Indian forces in India's portion of Kashmir, before negotiations can begin. In recent months, the region's two most populous nations have traded nuclear brinksmanship for detente, enforcing a total cease-fire between forces on each side of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. They have resumed air, rail and bus links and restored top-level diplomatic relations. Both nations have expressed a willingness to try new ideas to solve the Kashmir conflict, the source of two wars between the nuclear-armed neighbors since they gained independence from Britain in 1947. There are hopes that a formal peace dialogue could be announced.

Officials from all seven countries acknowledge that South Asia's fortunes are intertwined with those of its two largest members, whose squabbling has undercut regional trade. Disagreements between Pakistan and India are a key reason that in its 18 years in existence, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, has little to show for itself. Poverty among the 1.3 billion people of the region — one-fifth of the world's population, is endemic. In 2001 and 2002, the nations missed two deadlines to create a free trade zone before Friday's agreement, which will break down tariffs starting in 2006. Many at this year's summit say they hope the India-Pakistan issue does not cloud other desperately important challenges facing the region. Nepal has been losing ground to a bloody Maoist insurgency that is in control of a third of the country. Peace talks to end a 20-year civil war in Sri Lanka that has claimed 65,000 lives are sputtering. Even the tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan launched a December military campaign to oust rebels using their territory to attack troops in neighboring India.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditations, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks, and especially in synchronous attunement at the usual time this Sunday and the following one, to contribute in nurturing Peace between India and Pakistan and in the region of East Asia as a whole. May everyone involved in these negotiations put aside their differences to help gradually resolve all issues affecting peace and stability in East Asia and may the Spirit of Peace and Goodwill pervade this entire three-day summit and all future contacts between all parties involved, for the Highest Good of All.

This whole Meditation Focus has been archived for your convenience at http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus102.htm





2. MEDITATION TIMES

i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.

These times below are currently corresponding to 16:00 Universal Time/GMT:

Honolulu 6:00 AM -- Anchorage 7:00 AM -- Los Angeles 8:00 AM -- Denver 9:00 AM -- San Salvador, Mexico City, Houston & Chicago 10:00 AM -- New York, Toronto & Montreal 11:00 AM -- Halifax, Santo Domingo, La Paz & Caracas 12:00 PM -- Montevideo, Asuncion * & Santiago * 1:00 PM -- Rio de Janeiro * 2:00 PM -- London, Dublin, Lisbon, Reykjavik & Casablanca 4:00 PM -- Lagos, Algiers, Geneva, Rome, Berlin, Paris & Madrid 5:00 PM -- Ankara, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Athens, Helsinki & Istanbul 6:00 PM -- Baghdad, Moscow & Nairobi 7:00 PM -- Tehran 7:30 PM -- Islamabad 9:00 PM -- Calcutta & New Delhi 9:30 PM -- Dhaka 10:00 PM -- Rangoon 10:30 PM -- Hanoi, Bangkok & Jakarta 11:00 PM -- Hong Kong, Perth, Beijing & Kuala Lumpur +12:00 AM -- Seoul & Tokyo +1:00 AM -- Brisbane, Canberra & Melbourne +2:00 AM -- Wellington * +5:00 AM

+ means the place is one day ahead of Universal Time/Greenwich Mean Time.

* means the place is observing daylight saving time (DST) at the moment.

You may also check at http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/full.html to find your current corresponding local time if a closeby city is not listed above.




3. MORE INFORMATION RELATED TO THIS MEDITATION FOCUS

This complement of information may help you to better understand the various aspects pertaining to the summary description of the subject of this Meditation Focus. It is recommended to view this information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision we wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mind-set, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of peace and healing. This complementary information is provided so that a greater knowledge of what needs healing and peace-nurturing vibrations may assist us to have an in-depth understanding of what is at stake and thus achieve a greater collective effectiveness.

You may first review our previous related Meditation Focus:

Meditation Focus #14: Preparations for Peace Talks in Kashmir continue despite a wave of violence (August 6, 2000)
http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus14.htm

Meditation Focus #28: Potential for Peace in Kashmir (December 10, 2000)
http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus28.htm

Meditation Focus #42: Peace in Kashmir (July 8, 2001)
http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus42.htm

Meditation Focus #54: Maintaining Peace Between India and Pakistan (December 31, 2001)
http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus54.htm

Meditation Focus #55: Fostering a Peaceful Solution to the Kashmir Dispute (Jan 6, 2002)
http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus55.htm

Meditation Focus #65: Defusing Tensions Between India and Pakistan (May 26, 2002)
http://www.aei.ca/~cep/MeditationFocus65.htm

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From: http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/01/03/vajpayee.pakistan/

India PM in historic Pakistan trip

Saturday, January 3, 2004

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has arrived in Pakistan for the first time in nearly five years ahead of a South Asian summit seen as a historic opportunity for the the rivals to build on peace moves.

Vajpayee shook hands with his Pakistani counterpart Zarafullah Khan Jamali as he got off his plane in Islamabad Saturday.

It is Vajpayee's first visit to Pakistan since a summit in the city of Lahore in February 1999. Since then the two nuclear-armed nations have almost gone to war twice over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Vajpayee has said he wants to make a final push for peace in his lifetime, and ties have gradually warmed over the last year.

In November, India agreed to a Pakistani offer of a cease-fire along their borders in Kashmir.

Before leaving New Delhi, Vajpayee said he would not discuss outstanding bilateral disputes in talks with Pakistani leaders, intending instead to focus on the seven-nation South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, which has already shown signs of building on a thaw between the nuclear-armed rivals.

The leaders of seven SAARC nations, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, are expected to sign an agreement to set up a free trade area, a deal which is also expected to strengthen ties between India and Pakistan.

Earlier in the week it was announced State-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) would resume six flights a week to India from January, restoring air links suspended between the two countries for nearly two years.

India severed air, rail and road links with nuclear rival Pakistan in January 2002 after suspected Islamic militants attacked its parliament in December 2001. New Delhi blamed the attack on Pakistan-based militants, a charge denied by Islamabad.

The attack also resulted in a year-long military standoff between the two countries, although U.S.-led international pressure helped prevent a war.

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From: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/12/01/world/main586070.shtml

India, Pakistan PMs To Meet?

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 3, 2004

(AP) India's prime minister on Saturday indicated he'll meet the leaders of the country's bitter rival, Pakistan, on the sidelines of a summit of South Asian countries in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. But it remained unclear whether the leaders would hold bilateral talks on touchy issues, especially the Himalayan region of Kashmir, the main flash point between the two neighboring countries. Kashmir is divided between them, but claimed in entirety by both.

The three-day summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, begins Sunday.

“While in Islamabad, I will take the opportunity of bilateral meetings with other SAARC leaders, besides interacting with our hosts,” India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said shortly before leaving New Delhi for Islamabad.

“I hope all discussions, bilateral and regional, would proceed in the spirit of friendship, cooperation and good neighborliness,” he said.

Hours earlier, Vajpayee had said “there will be no bilateral talks in Islamabad.” In their customary diplomatic tiptoeing, the two nuclear-armed countries, who've fought three wars, routinely make fine distinctions between terms such as “meetings” and “talks.”

Officials on both sides have earlier indicated that there's virtually no chance of official talks on India-Pakistan relations, or on Kashmir.

There's been no official announcement, but Indian and Pakistani officials in Islamabad have said on condition of anonymity that Vajpayee and Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali are all but certain to meet on the sidelines of the summit.

Any meeting between Vajpayee and Pakistan's top leader, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, is unlikely to be confirmed before it happens. The two last met in India in July 2001.

Speculation about meetings between the rival leaders has been fueled by the arrival in Islamabad on Friday, a day ahead of schedule, of Brajesh Mishra, India's national security adviser and a close Vajpayee aide.

Any meeting between the rivals' top leaders would demonstrate an important new relaxation in historical hostilities.

Jamali was quoted as saying in Saturday's edition of the Pakistani newspaper The News that the countries had “moved from a dead-end.”

Acrimony was deep at the last SAARC summit, held in Nepal in January 2002, when Vajpayee and Musharraf gingerly shook hands while a million of their troops faced each other across their border on war alert. A month earlier, the Indian parliament had been attacked - India blamed Pakistan-backed Islamic militants, a charge Pakistan denied.

Last year's SAARC summit was canceled amid lingering hostility. But relations have been gradually improving since April.

Pakistan is eager to hold direct talks with India to resolve the decades-old dispute over Kashmir and other issues. India says Pakistan must show it has stopped harboring Islamic militants, who attack Indian forces in India's portion of Kashmir, before negotiations can begin.

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From: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&u=/ap/20040104/ap_on_re_as/south_asian_hopes&e=1&ncid=

Hopes Raised for India-Pakistan Relations

January 3, 2004

By PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press Writer

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Terrorism, free trade and fighting poverty top the agenda at a South Asian summit on Sunday, but attention will be focused on the sidelines, where Pakistani and Indian leaders have a historic opportunity to cement peace overtures after a half-century of hatred.

The leaders of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka are meeting in the Pakistani capital for the three-day summit. A breakthrough agreement that would create a free-trade zone by 2006 was reached at pre-summit meetings on Friday.

Far more interesting will be the chance for talks between Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first since the two men sparked the thaw in relations last year.

In recent months, the region's two most populous nations have traded nuclear brinksmanship for detente, enforcing a total cease-fire between forces on each side of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. They have resumed air, rail and bus links and restored top-level diplomatic relations.

Both nations have expressed a willingness to try new ideas to solve the Kashmir conflict, the source of two wars between the nuclear-armed neighbors since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.

"There's a general assumption that this opportunity will not be missed," Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri said Saturday.

There are hopes that a formal peace dialogue could be announced.

"The results of such a meeting may not be spectacular, but it will be a breaking of the ice," said Asma Jehangir, a prominent member of the independent Pakistan-India Forum for Peace and Democracy. "This conflict has held the whole region hostage, so just the fact that a meeting is happening is very significant."

Vajpayee has said he would meet with Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali, who is Pakistan's official representative at the summit, but insists he will not discuss flashpoint issues like Kashmir. He has not yet agreed to one-on-one talks with Musharraf, the nation's real power broker. Officials on both sides say privately that a meeting is likely, however.

It is Vajpayee's first visit to Pakistan since he met former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for talks in the eastern city of Lahore in February 1999. Several months later, the two nations' armies were fighting near the remote Kashmir border town of Kargil, killing more than 1,000 soldiers and inflaming nuclear tensions. By the end of that year, Sharif was gone — overthrown by Musharraf in a bloodless coup.

Officials from all seven countries acknowledge that South Asia's fortunes are intertwined with those of its two largest members, whose squabbling has undercut regional trade.

Disagreements between Pakistan and India are a key reason that in its 18 years in existence, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, has little to show for itself.

Poverty among the 1.3 billion people of the region — one-fifth of the world's population, is endemic. In 2001 and 2002, the nations missed two deadlines to create a free trade zone before Friday's agreement, which will break down tariffs starting in 2006.

The association's initiatives to fight human trafficking, improve education and upgrade infrastructure are mostly still paper fantasies.

In fact, the seven nations have had a hard time agreeing even on when and where to meet.

The Islamabad gathering — only the 12th summit of heads of state since 1985 in what was supposed to be a yearly event — was delayed for 12 months because of India's refusal to come.

Many at this year's summit say they hope the India-Pakistan issue does not cloud other desperately important challenges facing the region.

Nepal has been losing ground to a bloody Maoist insurgency that is in control of a third of the country. Peace talks to end a 20-year civil war in Sri Lanka that has claimed 65,000 lives are sputtering. Even the tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan launched a December military campaign to oust rebels using their territory to attack troops in neighboring India.

The regional summit is taking place amid unprecedented security in the wake of two recent attempts by suspected Islamic militants to assassinate Musharraf.

Weeks before the summit, officials began sprucing up the capital — adding several sculptures along a route delegates must travel to reach the convention site, repaving roads and placing festive lights and multicolored flags on nearby buildings.

But no amount of window-dressing can mask the main challenges facing the seven South Asian nations.

"There has to be cynicism because SAARC has talked big but done nothing," said Jehangir. "If anything, the problems of the countries in the region — poverty, religious intolerance, human rights — feed off each other."

___

EDITOR'S NOTE: Associated Press reporters in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have contributed to this report.

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From: http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=38443

Peace common desire in India, says Vajpayee

M. ZIAUDDIN

NEW DELHI, JANUARY 2: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has said the entire spectrum of mainstream political opinion in India is for peace, cooperation and friendship with Pakistan.

In an exclusive interview with Dawn at his residence here on Thursday, the PM made it clear that not only his Cabinet and the top leadership of his party, but also the mainstream political opinion was for making peace with Pakistan. ‘‘The main question that is raised by critics of my peace initiative is whether it is getting — and will get in the future — a matching and sustained response from Pakistan,’’ he added.

If such a response was forthcoming, ‘‘I can see no obstacle to establishment of a climate of friendship and cordiality in which we can discuss and resolve all our outstanding bilateral issues, including Jammu and Kashmir’’.

Four factors were forcing Pakistan and India towards peace, he said. ‘‘First and foremost, popular sentiments are overwhelmingly positive. Second, the imperative of globalisation dictates closer cooperation for faster economic development. Third, in the post-cold war world, it is in our national interest to join hands in tackling the many common problems we face in our countries and with the outside world. And finally, for how long do we want the world to look at India-Pakistan relations either as a threat to global peace or as a promising laboratory for new experiments in conflict resolution?’’

Vajpayee said it was the tragic experience of the two countries which generated the feeling that efforts for peace and cooperation could not last. ‘‘We have to draw sober conclusions from the lessons of our history,’’ he said. When suggested that one hoped his third effort for peace between the two countries would bear fruit, Vajpayee reiterated: ‘‘This is my last attempt.’’

He implied that he would not have the time to make a fourth attempt, referring perhaps to his age — he turned 79 last month. He virtually rejected Musharraf’s four-step plan for resolving the Kashmir issue by referring to the Shimla agreement, which, he said, clearly provided for the two countries to have bilateral dialogue for a ‘‘settlement’’ in J-K. ‘‘In spite of our clear position on the status of J-K, India has never shied away from a dialogue on the subject,’’ he added.

What India had been saying all along, he said, was that the two countries should first establish political, economic, cultural and social relations, so that ‘‘we could approach our bilateral differences with a spirit of accommodation and compromise, rather than one of unremitting hostility’’. He hastened to add it did not mean brushing aside J-K and other bilateral issues. ‘‘They will remain on the agenda. If we can discuss them with friendship and understanding — rather than suspicion and hostility — we are likely to find acceptable solutions much earlier.’’

Vajpayee said the Agra summit failed because Pakistan kept insisting on the centrality of the Kashmir issue and ‘‘we could not accept that’’.

When asked about the agreed draft which Pakistanis believed was sabotaged by some elements in his Cabinet, the PM said the draft was written by the two foreign ministers, but it had not had the governmental approval and, therefore, it was not the final draft.

Vajpayee said the fence along the LoC was being erected as an operational requirement to stop cross-border infiltration. ‘‘There was no question of India trying to settle the issue of J-K by building a fence along the LoC,’’ he said.

It was suggested to Vajpayee that in Pakistan the construction of the fence along the LoC was being perceived as an attempt by India to settle the Kashmir issue unilaterally as Islamabad believed that a fence was built only along recognised international borders and not along lines of control in a disputed territory.

‘‘As you know, India does not recognise the LoC as an international boundary. As its name implies, it is the line up to which our two countries exercise actual control on our respective sides. It was delineated by a bilateral agreement in December 1972,’’ he added.

In reply to a question on India’s consistent refusal to allow a formal discussion on bilateral issues during the SAARC summit, he said, one should heed the experience of successful multilateral and regional groupings around the world. ‘‘Whenever a regional organisation is formed, it is to exploit the synergies and complimentary strengths of its member states. This can create a collective entity more effective than the sum of its individual companies,’’ he said.

On the other hand, he maintained, if the organisation were to squander its energies in trying to deal with bilateral problems of its members, it would simply dilute its collective strength.

‘‘Successful regional groups like the European Union and ASEAN have wisely followed the dictum that you should focus on issues that unite, rather than let bilateral differences dominate your agenda. This is the wisdom enshrined in the SAARC Charter, and I think it is fundamental to SAARC’s successful functioning.”

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From: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_4-1-2004_pg3_5

Options on Kashmir (January 4, 2004)

Zahid Hamid

When the two leaders meet in Islamabad this year, the will to seek a solution through a flexible approach must translate into a commitment to take the process forward. The Kashmiris’ voice must be heeded.

President Pervez Musharraf’s softening of the old, hardened stance on Kashmir underpins a bold initiative and paves the way for a constructive dialogue. It came as a surprise because no leader — either side of the border — in over 50 years of conflict has shown the will to use the Kashmir dispute as anything other than an instrument of political expediency. It is an even bigger surprise that the initiative has come from Musharraf who is regarded as the architect of the Kargil conflict which nearly brought the two countries to the brink of a fourth war.

It is bold because Musharraf has not only stated his willingness ‘to resolve this issue,’ but emphasised that ‘both sides... [need to] talk to each other with flexibility, coming beyond stated positions, meeting halfway somewhere.’

This initiative is a significant turnaround in Islamabad’s Kashmir policy and may well have come at the behest of Washington. Indeed, a de-escalation of the threat of war will leave Pakistan with little reason to maintain a nuclear arsenal. Risk assessments also warn multinationals against outsourcing nearly 30 million jobs to India by 2010 unless the threat of a nuclear conflict in the subcontinent recedes.

Over the years, a number of possible solutions to the Kashmir issue have been tabled at various forums and discussed informally.

Solutions that focus on the dubious instrument of accession to India or union with Pakistan stemming from a plebiscite as suggested by the UN Resolutions are all but defunct now. The compromise that Musharraf has proposed is an acknowledgement of the ground realities and the region’s demography rather than a manifestation of selling out to the vested interests.

In Jammu, 66 percent of the population comprises high caste Hindus and in Laddakh, fifty percent of the population is Buddhist. Why would they accept accession to Pakistan? Similarly, it is unrealistic for India to demand, and for the 99 percent Muslim majority in the Northern Areas to accept, assimilation into the Indian Union. Any compromise therefore, has to move away from these all-or-nothing scenarios.

An independent state of Kashmir is not entirely unrealistic. Apart from the fact that such a state existed in the past, it would be geographically larger than 68 member countries of the UN and more populous than 90 of them. However, these statistics fade into irrelevance in the face of the fact that parts of Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir have been assimilated into the two countries. The Kashmiri leadership must recognise this, acknowledging that a compromise entails moving away from the demand of an independent Kashmir.

India has long favoured recognition of the ceasefire line turned Line of Control as the international border. This solution has been supported by both the US and Britain. But there are a number of reasons why this solution is unworkable. First, it completely denies the freedom struggle that has been carried out over the past decade-and-half and devalues the sacrifices offered and the suffering endured during this struggle. Second, this solution will not end the present militancy and the tide of terrorism may turn towards Pakistan. Third, India too, will not be able to rid itself of the freedom struggle. Last, built around the status quo, such a solution is sustainable only as long as it is politically convenient.

Another proposal that has been put forward is the Chenab formula. This formula for the division of Kashmir calls for the delineation of the international boundary between Pakistan and India along River Chenab. Although highly favourable to Pakistan, India stands to lose over 95 per cent of the 84,000 square miles that constitutes Indian-Held Kashmir. However, this solution is unrepresentative of the struggle and therefore defunct for all practical purposes.

This leaves us with the option of an independent Kashmir Valley, which addresses the grievances of the freedom struggle. While it is possible for the Valley to sustain itself to a degree with tourism and agriculture, it will be dependent on good relations with both India and Pakistan for being viable and prosperous. This would mean that both India and Pakistan retain a stake in the well-being of the Valley. This would make it easier for the two sides to swallow the bitter pill of having to give up territory for this scenario to emerge. A formal framework for such participation will not only help the two governments ‘sell’ the solution to their respective people but may also form the basis for broader cooperation as the two neighbours learn to coexist peacefully.

The economic windfall that will follow de-escalation of the threat of nuclear conflict will help the BJP Government sell this solution to its people. Musharraf, meanwhile, must take heart from the fact that he does not have to answer to an electorate; he only has to answer to his conscience. Therein lies his strength. He has created a historic opportunity. He will need all the support from friends at Whitehall and Capitol Hill to strengthen his hands further.

When the two leaders meet in Islamabad this year, the will to seek a solution through a flexible approach must translate into a commitment to take the process forward. The Kashmiris’ voice must be heeded while seeking a solution. Ignoring the indigenous content of this struggle may leave the region in greater turmoil than it has seen in the past 50 years.

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From: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_4-1-2004_pg3_4

Tough road to peace (January 4, 2004)

Rai Chowdhuri

In India and Pakistan, Kashmir is the national question. Every Indian and Pakistani government embraces the Kashmiri cause, both as a useful device to divert attention from their failures and because they fear what their publics might do if they were seen as surrendering to the traditional enemy/i>

After two years of off-and-on nuclear brinkmanship, India and Pakistan are once again talking about how to settle their differences rather than issuing threats and rattling nuclear sabres. But do the talks now underway have any better chance of success than the countless failed negotiations that have marked the past 50 years?

On November 25, 2003, India and Pakistan agreed to a cease-fire along the Line of Control (LoC), that divides Indian Kashmir from Pakistani Kashmir, as well as the actual ground control (AGPL) in strategic Siachen region. The cease-fire thus covers a huge area: the 778-kilometer LoC, the 150-kilometer AGPL and the 198-kilometer international border. This should pave the way for a meaningful dialogue at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meeting to be held in Islamabad between January 4-5.

Moreover, Pakistan has partly conceded its demand — which dates to the creation of India and Pakistan a little more than half a century ago — for an internationally supervised referendum in Kashmir to determine the province’s sovereignty. A brave concession, no doubt, but India has a more rigorous criterion for believing that Pakistan is truly serious about reaching a peaceful agreement: it wants Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of cross-border terrorism — in particular, the training camps for Kashmiri separatists and their international jihadi brethren.

Reining in the violent militants who keep the Kashmiri pot boiling, however, is difficult on both sides. In India and Pakistan, Kashmir is the national question. Every Indian and Pakistani government embraces the Kashmiri cause, both as a useful device to divert attention from their failures and because they fear what their publics might do if they were seen as surrendering to the traditional enemy on so vital an issue.

With Pakistan’s economy in a tailspin, and with the jihad culture of so many young Pakistanis undermining the country’s international credibility, moderate voices are at long last breaking through. The eminent columnist Amin M Lakhani recently argued in the Dawn, Pakistan’s largest-circulation newspaper, that “Pakistan’s singular preoccupation with Kashmir...has been self-defeating. Domestically, it has thwarted the country’s economic, social and political development. Internationally, [it] has diminished the country’s stature and left its reputation smeared. Even its spiritual development has been warped by the proliferation, popularization, and increase in relative power...of religious groups that represent an intolerant, militant, and gender-based interpretation of Islam.”

Lakhani points to the bitter irony that Pakistan’s 143 million people have sacrificed much in demanding democratic rights and self-determination for Kashmir’s 13 million people, while enjoying precious few of those same rights at home for the past 55 years. Can Pakistan demand, with a straight face, rights for another people that it constantly denies to its own?

That is the sad and awful question Lakhani asks, but alas he offers no answer. Undoubtedly, at the forthcoming summit between the leaders of the two countries, India’s Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will not miss any opportunity to ask the same question of his Pakistani counterpart. Obviously, Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali will be able to offer no satisfactory answer to this question — snot when he has to go home and report to his boss, the General-turned-President Pervez Musharraf.

But Vajpayee should try to do more than score points off Musharraf. That Pakistan may be willing to put aside its demand for an international referendum in Kashmir is the first real sign of compromise to be seen over the issue in decades. Vajpayee should test Pakistan’s seriousness on this point.

There is clearly room for doubt: on December 18, President Musharraf declared that, at the Islamabad SAARC summit, he would demand a UN-sponsored plebiscite in Kashmir. The very next day, however, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman, Masood Khan, claimed that President Musharraf was prepared to drop this demand.

India needs to know if Musharraf is sincere. If so, the foundation for a real dialogue to defuse the struggle over Kashmir may be possible.

But Musharraf has good reasons to talk out of both sides of his mouth at this stage. He recently survived two assassination attempts, and Islamists accuse him of entering into a ‘bargain’ with the infidel enemy, India.

Such rhetoric makes it hard to be optimistic about the outcome of the summit. Musharraf’s vulnerable domestic position makes him probably the last man who can resolve with India the core issue of Kashmir. Seen as too pro-American because of his support of the recent war in Afghanistan, Musharraf needs to burnish his nationalist credentials. Posturing over Kashmir remains the best way of doing that.

Vajpayee, for his part, has hinted that if Pakistan wants a decent deal, it ought to make one with him, as he might be the last Indian leader for a long time who is willing to compromise even a little on the issue. The hard men of his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) look likely to do as they are told. But the BJP has never shown any sign of solicitude towards Pakistan’s interests. So the window of opportunity to talk and compromise may be open only briefly, and, unfortunately, we have probably not seen the end of nuclear brinkmanship.

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Satyabrata Rai Chowdhuri, Emeritus Professor at India’s University Grants Commission, is a former Professor of International Relations at Oxford University, and Research Coordinator at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute

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From: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20031229/wl_afp/year_asia_unrest_031229063050

Thousands die as Asia's forgotten wars slog into new year (Dec 29)

NEW DELHI, (AFP) - As Iraq grabbed world headlines, thousands died in obscurity across Asia in 2003 as Indonesia and the Philippines battled rebels, communists rampaged through India and Nepal, and Bhutan launched its first military operation in nearly 140 years.

Dozens of Asian insurgencies, many of them decades-old, seem destined to rage through 2004 as resolving them remains far from the new year's to-do lists of global powers.

In India's northeastern hills between Tibet and Myanmar, about 30 rebel groups remain up in arms for the causes of ethnicities whose names draw blank stares in the capital New Delhi more than 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away.

Ceasefires came and went in Aceh on the tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra and in the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, with troops in both countries vowing by year end to crush guerrillas.

In Nepal, the army has reported the deaths of around 1,100 Maoist rebels and close to 300 soldiers or police since peace talks broke down in August.

Similar figures are reported in Aceh, where the military says 1,200 rebels have been killed since a five-month truce collapsed in May and Indonesia imposed martial law.

It says some 300 civilians have also been killed but blames the deaths on the Free Aceh Movement, which has been fighting for independence since 1976.

Elsewhere in Indonesia, a total of 6,000 people have died since 1999 in Muslim-Christian battles in two areas: the eastern Maluku islands and Poso in the South Sulawesi province.

Analysts said such bloodshed goes ignored by the outside world because vital resources are rarely at stake and the conflicts are seen are purely internal, with no international dimension save the occasional allegation that rebels are skipping an unfenced border.

Armed insurgents are active in 14 of India's 28 states. But the foremost issue for New Delhi policymakers is Kashmir where Muslim rebels are fighting to join India's historic rival Pakistan.

"The rest (of India's insurgent groups) are just disparate movements seeking to secede," said Bharat Kharnad, a research professor at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.

But it is the local nature of the insurrections that makes them so difficult to quell.

Throughout Asia, guerrillas armed with looted or smuggled weapons have exploited ethnic, religious and caste differences to survive onslaughts by militaries equipped with the latest hardware.

Kathmandu authorities have little control over vast stretches of Nepal where the Maoists, claiming to fight on behalf of the poor and ethnically excluded, levy their own "taxes" and even run their own "people's courts."

In the largely Roman Catholic Philippines, the military has accused the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of sheltering extremists at its camps in the south of the archipelago.

But the quarter-century Muslim separatist conflict showed signs of inching towards resolution in July when MILF entered a ceasefire.

Despite sporadic clashes under the truce, the 11,900-strong rebel group is slated to start peace talks with Manila next year.

Philippine military chief General Narciso Abaya said in October that the truce with the Muslim separatists would free up his forces to be redeployed against communists fighting their own decades-long insurrection.

But at year end, a spokesman for President Gloria Arroyo said the Philippine government was seeking to reopen dialogue with the communist guerrillas.

Peace moves also picked up steam in Nagaland, a northeastern Indian state smaller than Kuwait where at least 25,000 people have died since 1947.

Naga leaders Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu made their first trip to New Delhi in 36 years in January 2003 for negotiations with the Indian leadership.

Elsewhere in the northeast, Bhutan in December made good on six years of threats against Indian separatists holed up in the kingdom, launching the Buddhist kingdom's first military campaign since a 1865 war with the British.

---

See also:

Challenges for saarc summit Dr Akmal Hussain (Jan 3)
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_4-1-2004_pg3_2
As the SAARC Summit in Islamabad begins, South Asia may be poised for a breakthrough in the process of regional cooperation. It comes against the backdrop of peace overtures between India and Pakistan and prospects that the easing of their bilateral tensions may release the principal constraint to rapid progress in economic cooperation within saarc.

Kashmiris Look To SAARC Summit With Hope
http://www.paknews.com/kashmir.php?id=2&date1=2004-01-03
SRINAGAR, IHK: Jan 03 (PNS) - People from different walks of life besides political analysts in occupied Kashmir are hopeful about a positive outcome of the seven member SAARC Conference at Islamabad.

Buoyant mood prevails on SAARC summit eve (January 3)
http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_517921,00050002.htm
A crucial meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) begins in Islamabad on Sunday in the midst of thaw in Indo-Pak relations and hopes of a new beginning in their bilateral ties.

264 related news articles
http://news.google.ca/news?num=30&hl=en&edition=uk&q=cluster:www%2eabc%2enet%2eau%2fra%2fnewstories%2fRANewsStories%5f1019145%2ehtm

King in control and Maoists on rampage, Nepal sinks into crisis (Dec 21)
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20031221/wl_sthasia_afp/year_nepal_031221061618
Nepal sunk deeper into crisis in 2003, with more than 1,300 people reported dead in a Maoist rebellion, King Gyanendra stubbornly clinching to power and major political parties left in limbo. The year began with optimism as the Maoists reached a January 29 ceasefire with the government, opened an office in the capital Kathmandu and started talks to end their insurgency aimed at overthrowing the monarchy. But the government refused Maoist demands for an assembly to redraft the constitution and the rebels declared in August they could not negotiate so long as the king remained in charge. Since then, an average of 11 people have died each day in ambushes, explosions and targetted killings that have turned the kingdom of Mount Everest into a battlefield, according to army figures. While the influential army vows to wipe out the insurrection, a radical change in the political landscape could be on the cards as two centres of power -- the Maoists and the political parties -- flirt over forging an alliance against the king. The five major parties held dozens of noisy protests in Kathmandu this year to demand King Gyanendra reverse his October 2002 dissolution of the elected government. With their appeals falling on deaf ears, the parties' consensus leader Madhav Kumar Nepal revealed in November that he met clandestinely in India with the Maoists' elusive leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known by the alias "Prachanda," or "The Fierce." The Maoists have long sought to eradicate the parties' influence in the vast rural stretches under rebel control. The parties estimate around 400 of their activists are among the more than 9,000 people killed since the rebels took up arms in February 1996. CLIP

US asks Sri Lanka leaders to end power struggle (Jan 03)
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20040103/pl_afp/srilanka_us_tamil_040103175910
The United States has strongly urged Sri Lankan leaders to end their bitter power struggle that has seriously undermined an internationally-backed peace bid with Tamil rebels, diplomats said. CLIP More related news at http://search.news.yahoo.com/search/news/?c=&p=Sri+Lanka

World News Coverage
http://story.news.yahoo.com/fc?tmpl=fc&cid=34&in=world




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