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.BZU. 27-07-2011 11:59 PM

Pak Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in India
 
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Wazir e Kharja HINA RABANI Khar in India

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Just hours after she landed in India, Pakistan's new Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar already has India frowning.
Khar today met Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani, chiefs of the two factions of Jammu and Kashmir's separatist Hurriyat Conference, even before talks with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna.
Indian officials have already slammed the 34-year-old for inviting the group for talks at the Pakistan High Commission here - just days after ISI-backed Kashmiri activist Ghulam Nabi Fai was arrested by officials in the United States.
"Links between Pakistani establishment and terrorism or separatism or their promoters now stand exposed," an official was quoted as saying by an Indian daily.
Meanwhile, Mirwaiz said that in his talks with Khar, he would press for inclusion of Kashmiris in the India-Pakistan talks to solve the over 60-year-old Kashmir dispute.


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"They cannot solve the issue without participation of Kashmiri leadership in the negotiations," he said.
Geelani, known for his pro-Pakistani stance and his staunch opposition to any talks with the government of India, would also press for the same demand, said his spokesperson Ayaz Akbar.
"No solution is acceptable even if India and Pakistan agree on anything. Jammu and Kashmir is not a border dispute. It's for people (of the state) to decide their fate," Akbar said.
The Hurriyat leaders flew in from Srinagar on Tuesday morning.
Chairman of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Yasin Malik, who was also invited, has decided to skip the talks with Khar in Delhi due to his Pakistan visit.
Malik met the Pakistan foreign minister in Islamabad on Monday.
The Khar factor
When 34-year-old Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's youngest and first woman foreign minister, holds talks with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna, 45 years her senior, the world will be watching to see how she handles her first major diplomatic outing and navigates the troubled waters of the India-Pakistan relationship.
Khar touched down here in a special flight on Tuesday amid intense interest. Will her relative youth and inexperience bring a whiff of freshness to the perennially troubled relationship between the two neighbours? Or will the young foreign minister, fond of polo and trekking, struggle to hold her own in the talks that come barely a week after her appointment was formalised?
The jury is out on that one.
Amid widespread cynicism in Pakistan's predominantly patriarchal establishment, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari justified her appointment, saying it would 'send positive signals about the soft image of Pakistan'.
Khar, however, remains somewhat of a mystery in India. Curiosity has been piqued by her unusual background that blends the feudal and the modern.
'Young, attractive lady to represent Pakistan'
A postgraduate in hospitality and tourism from the University of Massachusetts, Khar comes from a wealthy feudal family in southern Punjab and owns Lahore's posh Polo Lounge, a haunt of the rich and the powerful. Her father is a large landowner from Muzaffargarh. Her uncle Ghulam Mustafa Kar was the subject of My Feudal Lord, a biting account of patriarchal society in Pakistan penned by his fifth wife Tehmina Durrani.
Analysts here are sceptical on whether Khar can make a real difference to the course of the revived peace process between India and Pakistan.
Satish Chandra, a former deputy national security adviser and a former envoy to Islamabad, says Khar's youth won't be a disadvantage. On the contrary, she could provide an image advantage to Pakistan, Chandra said.
"It will be a good photo-op, with an attractive young minister," he said. He added that given Pakistan's military-dominated establishment it does not matter who is the foreign minister of Pakistan.
"The shots are being called by the army, and when it comes to India-Pakistan relations, the script is always cleared by the army," said Chandra.
Agreed G. Parthasarathy, a former high commissioner to Pakistan.
"It's good for Pakistan to have a young, attractive lady to represent Pakistan in bad times when that country is being increasingly seen as an epicentre of terrorism."
"Having entered politics through the military, she is likely to be influenced by the military which calls the shots on India-Pakistan relations," Parthasarathy said.
Khar entered politics in 2002 and became a member of national assembly of the PML-Q party, affiliated with then Pakistan president Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
She joined the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP) ahead of the February 2008 general election and was made minister of state for economic affairs by the Zardari government in 2008.

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A meteoric rise
Her rise has been meteoric since, propelled by favourable circumstances. Barely four days after then foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's removal, she was named minister of state for foreign affairs.
Khar has become Pakistan's 26th foreign minister at a time when her country is suffering perhaps the worst image crisis and is being repeatedly singled out as a patron for terrorists and jihadists.
On the India front, there is, however, a window of opportunity. If her country can sustain the revived peace process, Khar, too, will share the credit. For now, the expectations are minimal, and that may well be Khar's big advantage in a country where over 67 per cent of the population is below 30.

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Expectations of a breakthrough in peace talks between India and Pakistan on Wednesday remain low, but the fact the nuclear armed rivals keep talking is a sign that neither side wants to slide back towards conflict in the world's most dangerous region.
Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar will meet in New Delhi to agree on confidence-building measures, such as relaxing trade and travel restrictions across a ceasefire line dividing disputed Kashmir but are unlikely to make any headway on the thorny territorial issue of Kashmir itself, or on fighting militancy.


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"In this case, talking means not going to war. That is the idea. Dialogue is not to resolve the issues, it's to tell the world they're not going to war," said Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian foreign secretary and a former ambassador to the United States.
Peace across the heavily militarised frontier between the nuclear-armed nations is crucial for the United States to draw-down troops and stabilise Afghanistan without sparking off a proxy war between New Delhi and Islamabad in that country.
India and Pakistan in February resumed a formal peace process broken off after the 2008 attack on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants, which killed 166 people.
The lack of controversy in meetings this year has raised hopes, at least that talking is a step in the right direction.
"We have learned lessons from history but are not burdened by history. We can move forward as good, friendly neighbours who have a stake in each other's future and who understand the responsibility that both the countries have to the region and within the region," Khar told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday.
The focus on Wednesday will be as much on 34-year-old Khar, Pakistan's first female and youngest-ever foreign minister, who was appointed to the post last week. Krishna is 79 years old.
Khar's first major meeting in Delhi was with senior Kashmiri separatist leaders, including the hardliner Syed Ali Gilani, a sign of how the disputed region occupies the prime position in ties between Pakistan and India.
NO 'BIG BANG' EXPECTATIONS
"We have told Pakistan we are willing to discuss all issues with an open mind," a senior Indian government source said.
"It will be an incremental process. It's not a 'big bang' thing," said the source, who declined to be identified, referring to the unlikelihood of any dramatic breakthrough.
As in previous peace efforts, progress has been slow and vulnerable to any attempts by Pakistan-based militants to try to trigger a war by launching another Mumbai-style attack.
But both sides kept their cool in the aftermath of a triple bomb attack in Mumbai this month that killed at least 23 people and injured more than 130. Police have yet to identify the suspects but security analysts suspect the Indian Mujahideen.
The countries, which announced they had tested nuclear weapons in 1998, have fought three full-scale wars since winning independence in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited New Delhi last week and urged India and Pakistan to normalise ties.
Distrust runs deep and U.S. plans to start pulling troops out of Afghanistan, a country both India and Pakistan have long competed over for influence, adds a fresh challenge to an already volatile, yet strategic region.
The different political and military landscapes in each country also complicate relations -- Pakistan has a powerful military and a weak government while India's government takes the lead with the military there to defend the country.
"The trust deficit has to be removed on both sides," said a Pakistani Foreign Ministry official, who declined to be identified.


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