The relations between Pakistan and India have always been chequered at best, marked by an air of mistrust and hostility. Each time they behave themselves to the brink of a conflict, we wonder will these powers, armed with dangerous toys, be ever able to live as peaceful neighbours. It's ironical that leadership on both sides claim that they want peaceful coexistence for the betterment of their people and whenever they are close to mend their fences someone messes up the issue. We take two steps forward and end up taking four steps in the opposite direction. Why? Is Pakistan really an irresponsible state that will send its foreign minister to advance peace process and send terrorists by sea to do exactly the opposite? Or is India not serious at all to give people of Kashmir their rights, and doesn't want to address the root cause of the hostilities? These questions need to be addressed sans any bias and with all intellectual honesty. An empirical view of history of the Indo-Pak subcontinent shows that British had strewn the seeds of conflict and post independence rivalry between India and Pakistan by leaving the issue of Kashmir undecided. The incomplete partition has also led embittered Kashmiris to resort to extremism. India alleges that Pakistani based extremist religious organisations, in connivance with the intelligence agencies, fuel the so-called insurgency and at times acts independently. Furthermore, the international community has been largely indifferent to Kashimiri people's plight thus literally forcing them to opt for violent means. On November 3, 1947, Field Marshall Claude Auchinleck wrote a prophetic statement to the British Ministry of Defence: "If on the other hand Indian forces succeed in establishing a control over Kashmir, this is likely to lead to a severe campaign of repression against Muslims in Kashmir and in Poonch, which is wholly populated by Punjabi musalamans. Should this happen it is probable that there will be a strong religious and racial reaction in Pakistan which might amount to jihad or holy war that the Pakistan government, in my opinion, will be powerless to control even if they so wished." Pakistan and India have tasted the poisoned fruit of the sixty years old seed. If the core issue of Kashmir is not resolved according to the aspirations of its people, as enshrined in several UN resolutions, both pugilists will continue to bleed. We will continue to beat about the 'Bush' till this fundamental issue is not resolved with complete sincerity. For this, however, we need bold leaders who can find some out of the box solutions instead of maintaining rigid stance. The notion of surgical strikes by India since Pakistan failed to 'do more to satisfy' it and is powerless to control such acts of terrorism needs consideration too. I don't endorse the perception that the Pakistani government is powerless in dealing with the terrorists rather it finds it increasingly difficult to fight them and control extremism due to diminishing support from the US and Western World, who have a different paradigm. While loss of innocent lives in Mumbai cannot be underplayed, it is also a fact that Pakistan continues to suffer from similar acts of terrorism that may be linked to India. It chooses not to point fingers to give peace a chance. While India's internal political compulsions force it to score points by bringing Pakistan on the spot without evidence, latter has acted with prudence to handle the crisis erupting from Indian hawkishness. It is surprising to see India and the US jumping the gun and implicate Pakistan without credible evidence and complete investigation. There are forty-six separatist movements in India that are a source of instability. Given the surviving shooter, Ajmal Kasab, may be of Pakistani origin but it is quite easy to find mercenaries to achieve different ends. He did not act at government's behest. Entire Pakistani nation cannot be made responsible for an individual act of madness that may have been orchestrated by another player that wanted to set Pakistan and India up to achieve other aims. Every Pakistani on the street asks why the international community remains silent once Pakistan faces a similar tragedy. This insensitivity may lead to further disenchantment from the West. The way America and India have handled the crisis emanating from the Mumbai attacks merit analysis from War on Terror and Kashmiri freedom struggle's perspective. Besides leading to another conflict with India, this incident has the potential to create some long term down beat effects in counterterrorism partnership with America. The way the situation is unfolding, the Kashmiri freedom struggle may go on back burner. India has been largely successful in manipulating increased American sensitivity to terrorism and latter's impartiality seems to tilt in Indian favour. It appears that Pakistan's moral support to freedom struggle in Kashmir is a source of concern for America and challenges US interests in diminishing the capacity of terrorist organisations and degrading their force projection capabilities. The US increasingly considers Pakistan as an uncertain, and possibly short-term, partner in the War on Terror since latter's perceptions on core security problems revolve around India and Kashmir. That is a serious point of divergence for Washington and Islamabad. Another reason for this transient partnership is Pakistan's chequered social, economic and political stability as well as the mixed attitudes of populace towards America. Conversely, India is viewed as a lasting counterterrorism partner for reasons that are essentially the opposite of Pakistan's perceived weaknesses. It's interesting to see that the short-term partner is doing the most in the War on Terror and USA still wants to milk it more, while the long-term partner in the War on Terror sits back and enjoys For the sake of peace and prosperity in the region, the Indian government will have to act responsibly and look beyond short-term gains in the forthcoming elections. They have to exercise patience and behave maturely like the Pakistani leadership and respond with sincerity to Pakistan's offer to help them investigate the Mumbai attacks. What bigger assurance they need than a promise that the perpetrators, if any from Pakistan, will be brought to justice. The common people of India need a better deal from their government by avoiding conflict rather than pushing them further below the poverty line. Pakistan is a responsible state that is the largest troop contributor to the United Nations and has been instrumental in bringing peace to many troubled parts of the world. Ironically it cannot find peace with its neighbour that claims to be the largest democracy. Pakistan is acting responsibly. Is the rest of the world too? It must be understood that the people of Pakistan will not tolerate violation of their territorial integrity lying down. While India can gain the initiative by the so-called surgical strikes but they may not be able to control the outcome of such miscalculation. The outgoing US president lamented the faulty intelligence used to build support for invading Iraq: "I think I was unprepared for war." Does Dr Singh, after finishing his term, want to repent putting his soldiers and countrymen in harm's way too? Is he equipped with rhetoric or faulty intelligence? It is time for a reality check. The writer is a freelance columnist