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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Analysis: India seeks breakthrough
Indian troops during search in Srinagar, Kashmir
India's announcement fuels hopes for progress
By Mike Wooldridge in Delhi

The party of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the BJP, has been doing some soul searching of late.

It comes in the wake of the recent arms bribery scandal, as well as the success of its opponents in state assembly elections and the widely held perception that the Kashmir ceasefire has been running into the ground.

Indian PM Atal Bahari Vajpayee
The Indian prime minister felt betrayed over Kargil
The party and its leader have evidently become conscious of being perceived as drifting by an impatient domestic electorate and by the international community, which rarely ceases to urge India and Pakistan to reduce tension by talking.

When he visited the two countries last year, Bill Clinton gave an impassioned appeal for a resumption of the dialogue that broke off with the 1999 conflict in Kashmir's Kargil region, the most serious military confrontation between India and Pakistan in three decades.

A new, much warmer, relationship between Delhi and the US was not made to hinge on dialogue, but Mr Clinton made it clear it would help.

Regional pressures

There seems to be consistency from the Bush administration and there is another factor now.

Former US President Bill Clinton
Mr Clinton gave an impassioned appeal for dialogue
India and the US share concerns about China and analysts say India will be interested in how Bush's missile defence plans might play out to its advantage in this region.

The India-US relationship is of growing importance, but Washington's is, of course, not the only voice heard in Delhi.

Russia, for example, remains a key partner. President Putin was also here last year urging resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan.

And if India was only acting under external pressure, it would hardly be likely to risk international disapproval by calling off the ceasefire while, at the same time, inviting General Musharraf for talks.

It is suggested here that the general is being put to a test. He has said he wants talks, but is he serious?

Until very recently it was said that this kind of meeting was unlikely to happen soon, and that Mr Vajpayee still felt he had been betrayed by Pakistan over Kargil and would not let it happen again.

Mr Vajpayee is presumably now calculating that he could have more to gain than to lose.

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See also:

24 May 01 | South Asia
Pakistan welcomes India offer
21 May 01 | South Asia
Massive protest in Kashmir
26 Apr 01 | South Asia
Kashmir separatists snub peace offer
23 Apr 01 | South Asia
Bridging the Kashmir divide
15 May 01 | South Asia
India contacts Kashmir separatist
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