Discussions in the media on last weeks Pak-India talks in Islamabad focused on some disturbing differences that surfaced during the joint press conference and were accentuated the next day by candid remarks of Paki-stans Foreign Minister. The bullying tactics and dramatic antics of the Indian government and the docility and ineptness of our own also received due attention. However, not much was said about two inter-connected fundamental problems blighting the Pak-India peace process: Lack of vision on part of the leadership of the two countries and their inability to view normalisation of relations outside the American framework. The leaders on either side swing like erratic pendulums between two equally unproductive postures; assuming the false tone of reconciliatory American puppets on the one hand and mouthing jingoistic mutually irreconcilable rhetoric on the other. In the short-term, this approach might suit the Indian government whose growing strategic partnership with the US has led to a synchronisation of the narrowly-defined and short-sighted foreign policy objectives of the two countries but it spells disaster for the prospects of lasting stability and durable peace in the region. Pakistan, that is the target of this team of bullies, cannot afford to continue to play ball with them. Since the Mumbai attacks, the Indian government seems to be happily playing the B-team for the Americans when it comes to its dialogue with Pakistan. In the recently concluded talks, its insistence on the single-point agenda of terrorism, and bulldozing the Pakistan government to do more to quell it, was what led to a deadlock. The rude dismissal of Pakistani concerns and a refusal to discuss them until it satisfies India regarding its sincerity to tackle the terrorist organisations echoes the tone now discarded by the US, at least in its public posturing, and is obviously encouraged by the meddlesome superpower. The statement of the Indian Home Minister a day before the talks directly implicating the ISI in the attacks cannot be brushed aside as a coincidence either. That the US and India are both interested in cutting ISI down to size and bringing the Pakistan army under pressure is obvious. Why they want to do it is no secret either. Convinced that the civilian government in Pakistan would not resist the strategic goals of the two bullies in the region, they view the two targeted institutions as irritating hurdles in their hegemonic designs. The failure of Pakistans Foreign Minister to bring evidence of Indian involvement in Balochistan and FATA to the discussion table gives credence to this perception about the PPP government. Similarly, the governments lack of conviction in pursuing the crucial issues of water and Kashmir also indicates that it is playing its part in a scripted normalisation process that has little to do with the interests of Pakistan. The entire exercise seems to be aimed at paving the way for the US game plan in Afghanistan and its cruel vision for the regions future that, like elsewhere in the world, feeds on the misery of the people. How wise is it for two neighbours to redefine their problematic relationship according to the wishes of a bully from the next block? Are they not inviting the unscrupulous and greedy muscleman to call the shots in their street? And that is what the visionless puppet governments in India, as well as Pakistan must understand. Allowing the US to direct their bilateral relations from behind the scenes is a sure recipe for disaster. The imperialist bully arm-twists and corrupts the aid-dependent Pakistan government and it plays upon the regional power fantasies of the Indian political elite to serve only one insincere goal: global hegemony. The Indians might be happy that the US is bent upon beating Pakistan with a stick to death. They should know that the bunch of carrots it is dangling in front of their eyes is little more than illusions. In any case, none of these carrots will help the cause of the Indian people. Like the people of Pakistan, they will be at the receiving end of the stick. Endless hostility between Pakistan and India does not serve the interests of people of the two countries, and it is important to work towards a resolution of disputes that lie at the root of these hostilities. Any normalisation that is based on real or imaginary perceptions of state power, rather than concepts of justice and fairplay, is bound to be short-lived. The redefinition of Pak-India relations must be grounded in these concepts and a desire for the welfare of their citizens. And for the dialogue to produce any positive results, it is important that governments that represent the two nations, rather than visionless puppets, direct the process. The biggest challenge for peace-loving citizens on either side is not the reconciliation of hardened positions but bringing to the fore a leadership that truly represents the interest of their lands and people who inhabit them. It will not be difficult for such a leadership to stay clear of bullies from the next block who, in the garb of nudging them for friendship, pit one against the other and sow newer seeds of enmity. It will not be difficult for them to understand the virtues of real peace, to be fair to each other and reconcile their differences in a win-win solution to our problems. True, there are serious issues involved and over the years the two states have created narratives that demonise the other. But a sincere leadership with a vision in Pakistan and India will not be afraid to move on from the existing mutually irreconcilable positions and build a future based on mutual benefit, respect and trust. It will not be afraid to be fair to each other. A lasting peace can only be built upon the foundation of justice. It cannot be achieved by puppets, weak or strong, that are guided by principles of power; their feet not on the ground but in the air, and their movements guided by hidden hands that pull their strings from above. The writer is a freelance columnist.