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Will the Military Let Pakistan's New PM Make Peace With India?


Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, has been making noise about peace with India, but how far will the army let him go?

Immediately after his party won Pakistan’s election, Sharif invited Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, to his swearing-in ceremony. “Let there be no doubt that we will not allow terrorism to be exported to India from Pakistani soil,” Sharif said in an interview with an Indian newspaper. “Let me tell you—and through you, the citizens of India—that we want friendship with India and will not allow any more Kargils and Mumbai-like terror attacks. Terrorism can only hurt both India and Pakistan.”

Singh has also been positive: “I look forward to working with you and your government to chart a new course and pursue a new destiny in the relations between our countries,” he wrote in a letter to Sharif.

Both leaders have taken flak for proffering a hand to the other in the past; Sharif, in fact, was deposed in a military coup shortly after the army, supposedly without orders, invaded Indian-controlled Kashmir in 1999.

That episode still haunts Sharif, and despite a few rhetorical hints that things might be different this time, the balance of power in Pakistan has not changed since the last time he was in office. The military still wields the real power in Pakistan, while civilian politicians are in charge of non-strategic policy. So far, we don’t see any real sign the army is willing to reduce its focus on India or Kashmir. As Jimi Hendrix once counseled, “No reason to get excited.” Peace between the world’s most antagonistic nuclear armed nations is not yet at hand.

[Photo of Nawaz Sharif courtesy Getty Images]

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  • wigwag

    “Let there be no doubt that we will not allow terrorism to be exported to India from Pakistani soil,” (Nawaz Sharif)

    Could there be a bigger joke than that. Anyone in India who take Sharif seriously should have his head examined.

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