Vol 3, PW 12 (07 Jul 99) People & Policy

Their stern faces said it all.

After three hours of talks with President Clinton on Sunday (4 July) a delegation of Pakistani officials led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, emerged to meet the press. They said nothing, but their look of despair left little to the imagination.

On that day, it has since emerged, Clinton and his aides delivered a lecture to Sharif and demanded that Pakistan withdraw its troops from Indian-controlled Kashmir. Sharif, it appears, was arm-twisted to put his signature to a joint US-Pakistan document, stating implicitly that, "concrete steps will be taken for the restoration of the Line of Control" (thereby admitting the involvement of regular Pakistani troops, until now denied) and an "immediate cessation of hostilities once these steps are taken" (implying a level of Pakistani control over the militants, until now also denied).

Days earlier a top US general, Anthony Zinni, went to Islamabad to give the Pakistani military a similar ultimatum. On Thursday (1 July) the House International Relations Sub-committee on Asia of the US Congress passed a resolution by 20 votes to 5 condemning Pakistani action in Kashmir.

Coupled with a string of victories by Indian troops on the ground, the conflict in Kashmir looks now as if it might be drawing to a close, with Pakistan the clear loser. India, however, is leaving nothing to chance.

It knows that Sharif returns to Pakistan his future uncertain, a traitor in the eyes of many in the army. His ability to keep his word to the US and de-escalate the crisis is linked directly to his ability to reign in his soldiers.

No easy task.