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By early 2007, the back-channel talks on Kashmir had become “so advanced that we’d come to semicolons,” Kasuri recalled. A senior Indian official who was involved agreed. “It was huge--I think it would have changed the basic nature of the problem,” he told me. “You would have then had the freedom to remake Indo-Pakistani relations.” Aziz and Lambah were negotiating the details for a visit to Pakistan by the Indian Prime Minister during which, they hoped, the principles underlying the Kashmir agreement would be announced and talks aimed at implementation would be inaugurated. One quarrel, over a waterway known as Sir Creek, would be formally settled.
Neither government, however, had done much to prepare its public for a breakthrough. In the spring of 2007, a military aide in Musharraf ’s office contacted a senior civilian official to ask how politicians, the media, and the public might react. “We think we’re close to a deal,” Musharraf ’s aide said, as this official recalled it. “Do you think we can sell it?”
Regrettably, the time did not look ripe, this official recalled answering. In early March, Musharraf had invoked his near-dictatorial powers to fire the chief justice of the country’s highest court. That decision set off rock-tossing protests by lawyers and political activists. The General’s popularity seemed to be eroding by the day; he had seized power in a coup in 1999, and had enjoyed public support for several years, but now he was approaching “the point where he couldn’t sell himself,” the official remembers saying, never mind a surprise peace agreement with India.
Kasuri was among the Musharraf advisers who felt that the Pakistanis should postpone the summit--that they “should not waste” the negotiated draft agreements by revealing them when Musharraf might not be able to forge a national consensus. Even if it became necessary to hold off for months or years, Kasuri believed, “We had done so much work that it will not be lost.”
Pakistan’s government sent a message to India: Manmohan Singh’s visit should be delayed so that Musharraf could regain his political balance. India, too, was facing domestic complications, in the form of regional elections. In New Delhi, the word in national-security circles had been that “any day we’re going to have an agreement on Kashmir,” Gurmeet Kanwal, a retired Indian brigadier, recalled. “But Musharraf lost his constituencies.”