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India-Pakistan dialogue: 12 landmarks on a road going nowhere

1) 11 May, 1998:  India carries out Operation Shakti I test, detonating three nuclear devices at Pokharan.

It follows this up with two further tests on 13 May. Pakistan responds with its own tests on 28 May, 1998 and 30 May 1998.  Nuclear optimists predict nuclear weapons have made war a thing of the past in South Asia; pessimists warn a new, more dangerous age is dawning.

[WATCH: Atal Behari Vajpayee announcing the Pokhran II nuclear tests]

2) 21 February, 1999: Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif meet in Lahore.

They issue a statement saying they share “a vision of peace and stability between their countries, and of progress and prosperity for their people”.  The Lahore Declaration promises to “intensify their efforts to resolve all issues, including the issue of Jammu and Kashmir”. The meeting is hailed in India as a breakthrough—but even then, critics note that Sharif gave Vajpayee only a “half-hug”, and that the country’s all-powerful military chiefs refused to greet the Indian prime minister.

 

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif passes a coaster to his Indian counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee July 29 during the opening ceremony of the three-day summit of the South Asian Association for Reginoal Coperation (SAARC). Reuters

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif passes a coaster the then Indian Prime MinisterAtal Behari Vajpayee during the SAARC summit . Reuters

[LISTEN: Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Radio Pakistan address]

3) May, 1999: War breaks out on the Kargil heights 

Though then-Union Defence Minister George Fernandes infamously promises to evict Pakistan in 48 hours, the war rages on for two months—claiming 527 Indian soldiers lives, and leaving 1,363 injured. From the first-hand account of Lieutenant-General Shahid Aziz, we now know the Pakistani offensive had been planned months in advance.  Historical accounts agree Pakistani troops were occupying the heights even as Prime Ministers Vajpayee and Sharif were meeting in Lahore—though there’s debate over how much the Pakistani leader actually knew about what his military was up to.

[WATCH: Indian air force targets Pakistani positions in Kargil]

4) 14-16  July , 2001: General Pervez Musharraf and Vajpayee meet in Agra, for a disastrous summit

Following a military coup in Pakistan, India and Pakistan make a fresh effort to bridge their differences.  However, the Agra summit ends in acrimony, with Musharraf later blaming Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and key bureaucrats for sabotaging an agreement.  The scholar Gaurav Kampani, however, says India just wasn’t persuaded by Musharraf’s promises on Kashmir and terrorism.

[WATCH: Films division documentary with footage from Agra]

5) 13 December, 2001: Attack on Parliament House, leading the largest military mobilisation since World War II

In spite of its defeat in the Kargil war, Pakistan had ratcheted up violence within Jammu and Kashmir. The culmination came with an attack by a Jaish-e-Muhammad suicide squad on Parliament House.  India threatened war, and moved its troops forward. The troops would stay poised for war until the summer of 2002. The mobilisation cost India heavily in terms of loss of lives, military hardware and money.  It also, however, led to a realisation within Islamabad that crisis had asymmetric costs for them—simply, that they cost Pakistan more than India.

[WATCH: CNN-IBN’s raw footage of the attack on Parliament]

6) 30 November, 2003: India and Pakistan agree to a ceasefire on the Line of Control

The ceasefire ends years cross-border shelling and attacks—and, critically from India’s point of view, is matched by Pakistani promises to end terrorism against India.  For the next ten years, violence goes down year-on-year in Jammu and Kashmir.  There is also a process of secret diplomacy, that brings India and Pakistan to the edge of a four-point deal on Kashmir. There are a string of confidence building measures, including enhanced bus and train links.

[WATCH: the train from Khokrapar, in Pakistan, to Monabao in India, which began crossing the border in 2006]

7) 17 September, 2006: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets Pervez Musharraf in Havana

The joint statement issued by the two leaders speaks of setting up a joint anti-terror mechanism—in theory, allowing India to press for action against perpetrators of violence. Experts, like the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analyses’ Smruti Pattnaik, are mostly unimpressed. Their pessimism is borne out: India gets no action against fugitives like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed or Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar. In November, 2006, Mumbai is subjected to the bombing of its suburban train system, which we now know to have been carried out by Indian nationals trained and equipped by the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.

[WATCH: Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, telling Karan Thapar that India and Pakistan are making peace “secretly”]

8) 26, November, 2008: The Lashkar-e-Taiba attacks Mumbai, leading to an end to all diplomatic engagement

Not long after President Asif Ali Zardari takes power in Pakistan, he issues a number of statements giving heart to India. He tells CNN-IBN’s Karan Thapar that a solution to Kashmir could be left to “coming generations”. In another interview, he even called the jihadists in Kashmir “terrorists”.  The peace push is believed to have led jihadists and Pakistan’s military to authorise the 26/11 attacks.  The carnage sends relations into a tailspin.  In June, 2009, Manmohan Singh tells Zardari his mandate is restricted to seeking an end to terrorism against India.  Inside the Indian government, hardliners begin to call for offensive covert operations against terrorists.

[WATCH: the interrogation of 26/11 gunman Ajmal Kasaab]

9) 16 July, 2009: Manmohan Singh issues controversial Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement

Following a series of tenuous breakthroughs—including a Pakistani probe into 26/11 that has still led nowhere—Manmohan Singh however changes tack. He meets with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Geelani at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt, and issues a joint declaration that appears to let Pakistan off its responsibility to act against anti-India terrorism. The joint declaration even contains a stray reference to Baluchistan, which some read as an Indian concession to claims its covert services are backing terrorism there. The opposition reacts with fury.  Later. Singh tells the Lok Sabha he has no intention of resuming even limited talks, “let alone the composite dialogue”.

[WATCH: Yashwant Sinha critique the Prime Minister’s handling of Sharm-el-Sheikh]

10) 30 March, 2011: Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani visits India for a cricket match

This is one of several symbolic, personal visits, including one by President Zardari to Ajmer Sharif.  There’s also talk in Pakistan—still not delivered on—of granting India Most Favoured Nation status.  Meanwhile, the first fighting in years breaks out alone the Line of Control, and negotiations on Siachen stall, in the face of Indian military opposition to Singh’s push for a deal.  In April, 2011, Geelani and Singh meet in the Maldives, and promise a “new chapter” in relations.

[WATCH: Indian troops on the Siachen glacier, the world’s highest battlefield]

11) January 2013: India accuses a group of Pakistani soldiers of “barbaric and inhuman” behaviour

Following the execution of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control, peace talks stall and the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says there can be no “business as usual”. Pakistan keeps insisting that the way forward is to resume the stalled composite dialogue. Singh’s advisors are thought to agree—but his party is bitterly divided on the potential costs, amidst rising terrorism and cross-Line of Control tensions.

[WATCH: Indian UAV picks up Pakistani infiltrators crossing the Line of Control in the Keran sector]

12) 29 September 2013: Sharif 'jokingly' refers to Manmohan Singh as a 'dehati aurat'

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did some tough talking on state-sponsored terror in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, calling Pakistan the “epicenter of terrorism”, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif courted controversy by reportedly likening Singh’s comments to the whining of a “dehati aurat”, or village crone.

Sharif’s remarks were reportedly made in jest to reporters during an off-the-record briefing.

WATCH: Video of GeoTv Hamid Mir pointing out that the Nawaz Sharif called Mamohan Singh a 'dehati aurat.'

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