Catch the mice

Above all, the two sides negotiated a framework for the settlement of the Kashmir question through the back channel. By 2008, as Musharraf's hold on power slipped, cross-border violence began to rise and it was a matter of time before a big terrorist attack would be launched and the peace process undermined.

As we learn from the recent past and look ahead, India must reconsider three core assumptions about the peace process. The first is the belief that we are negotiating with a coherent entity that is capable of making rational choices. Whether we should engage Pakistan or not is a question that makes sense only if treat our western neighbour as a black box.

New Delhi must instead recognise the enormous internal divergence in Pakistan towards India and develop an approach that helps reasonable voices across the border prevail over the incurably hostile ones.

In short, the very purpose of our engagement must be to produce a systemic change in Pakistan. It stands to reason then that we must not suspend the engagement every time India's adversaries put up an obstacle.

This in turn would call for a deliberate political outreach to the full spectrum of state and society in Pakistan. The capacity to relate to different forces across the border would liberate us from the current either-or framework that leaves the political initiative with those in Pakistan opposed to reconciliation with India.

Second, as we made progress with Musharraf during 2004-07, an unstated assumption in New Delhi was that the army was our best interlocutor. That belief is no longer sustainable.

Once the baton passed from Musharraf to General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistan army has consistently looked for a way out of the peace process. Whatever might have been Musharraf's individual motivations, it is quite clear that the army is not committed to the principles on which Vajpayee and Dr Singh have negotiated with Pakistan since 2004.

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