From the spate of articles in the Indian media it seems that the Zardari visit has been a success and that it was just what the Indians were waiting for. There is very little mention of the previous refrain about the military calling the shots and the civil government being helpless. This is a good sign and hopefully the two governments will take their cue from the Manmohan–Zardari meeting and make significant progress before the Indian Prime Minister visits Pakistan.
President Zardari had planned a private visit to visit the holy shrine at Ajmer—a much revered Sufi saint’s burial place. Obviously he hoped that the Indians would do something besides just extend courtesy and protocol. There are those who think that the visit to the shrine was orchestrated to create an opportunity for a meeting where the two leaders could speak frankly. If this was not the case then the options for the Indians were to just let it remain a private visit or to extend an invitation for an official visit with all its implications or to do what they did—turn it into a kind of working visit. This worked well because from all accounts the visit was a success and achieved much in terms of understanding and trust. The Indians seem to have come to the conclusion that Mr Zardari and his son are people they can work with.
The expectation is that there will now be progress on resolving Siachen and Sir Creek especially after the recent tragedy in Siachen has highlighted the futility of such confrontations. The reality however is that Pakistan cannot accept and condone Indian aggression in Siachen by agreeing to ratify the actual ground positions of the two forces—something the Indians insist on. Nor can they agree to the Indian view on Sir Creek because that has implications for the extension of the boundary line into the sea. No one knows the exact contours of the agreement the previous regime had agreed on in Kashmir. So there is a long way to go but a beginning has been made and hopes are high because this time trade and economic considerations are powerful drivers.
The 800 pound gorilla around these events is the US. The gorilla wants a cozy cuddly relationship with India—a feeling that India fully reciprocates because of all the goodies that will come its way. The gorilla also wants bases in Afghanistan—something the Afghan Government (but not the Afghans) wants to give them to ensure continued support of all kinds. All three want Pakistan to do several things—deliver terrorists, end sanctuaries, stabilize internally and cooperate fully in all that they want to do in their own interests. Pakistan wants good bilateral relations with all three but it has to be clear on the end result sought by the US in Afghanistan and on how and to what extent it will be supported now and in the long run to face the challenges that threaten it. So far all Pakistan is getting is pressure and coercion and its response is to this pressure not to a supportive cooperative attitude addressing its concerns.