President Asif Ali Zardari will go to India today, and return the same day, after a visit to Ajmer Sharif, where he will pay homage at the shrine of Khawaja Moeenuddin Chishti Gharibnawaz, and lunch in New Delhi with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. While his visit is essentially private, the lunch has become a public affair, especially since reportedly no specific agenda has been fixed. While there would be many things that two nuclear-armed neighbours could talk about, is it too much to hope that the leaders of the two countries could talk about the core issue between them, that of Kashmir. Actually, there is not all that much to discuss about it, merely the modalities on the UN-supervised plebiscite that Security Council resolutions mandated to determine the will of the Kashmiri people. So far, however, all that India has done is to keep issue off the table.

One of the harmful effects of the Indian refusal to talk, and of the Pakistani complicity in its doing so, can be seen in the Indian theft of Pakistan’s remaining share of Indus waters, which it is committing by building dam after dam in Kashmir. If the Kashmir issue is solved according to the will of the Kashmiri people, the Indian dam-building would automatically solve itself. However, the government is going by American advice, not as an honest broker, but as a power that is trying to build up India as its counterweight to China in the region. Thus the government is busy currying favour with India, by giving it commercial advantages like MFN status, which might fuel Indian mercantilist ambitions, but which will lead to the destruction of Pakistan’s trade and industry.

If President Zardari does not avail this opportunity of conveying to India Pakistan’s concerns, which are both genuine and rational, he would not only do his country a disservice, but India also. The sooner India realizes that Pakistan is united in its support for the Kashmiri cause, and that there is no use currying favour with the USA if it plans to continue its illegal occupation of the Held Valley, the better it will prove for India, as well as the millions of Kashmiris groaning under its military occupation. President Zardari must be blunt, and tell India that CBMs will not solve the problem, only substantive talks will.