Peter Preston has had a long love affair with Pakistan, which began in the early 1970s when as a young reporter he covered the break up of the country and its devastating loss against India. Since then things have slowly slid downhill in Pakistan, bolstered briefly by US backing against the Soviets and Zia's uber-Islamism in the 80s.
So the former editor's cri de coeur in today's Guardian for India To Save Pakistan From Itself should not surprise. What does is that PP suggests India flies in to rescue Islamabad from the Frankenstein monsters it created.
It is disappointing to see PP reach for hoary old analysis. He says India's political chiefs on the hustings trail have shown feet of clay and thoughts stuck in a timewarp. To quote the piece
Where - in so much of the hustings talk - is there recognition of the peril that Pakistan's internal implosion might bring? And where is the resolve to stretch out a hand of understanding or positive aid? India's economic advance is new: India's political chieftains, though, are old, and set in their ways. They knew who to blame after Mumbai. They see the Taliban beginning to target Kashmir. They do not trust President Zardari or his army or his spooks. They welcome the announcement by Washington's special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, that India "is the absolutely critical leader in the region" with an enhanced role in Afghanistan, but they leave subcontinental relations frozen as usual. They do not realise they are not absolutely critical in Kabul, but in Islamabad itself.
This I am afraid is out of date by a decade or two. The Indian elections are not dominated by Pakistan because the two countries by mutual consent don't get involved in each others internal machinations. An endorsement by Delhi of a Pakistani politician ends careers in Islamabad. Former president Musharraf's bluster and swagger simply irritated the Delhi elite in March.
India and Pakistan have had hands outstretched for five years, ever since the breakthrough 2004 Islamabad summit. The prime minister of India, a respected economist born in what is now Pakistan, blamed official agencies in Pakistan after Mumbai because of the evidence he had seen. Manmohan Singh is not given to idle conspiracies. The gunfights on the Line of Control have got tougher and harder in recent months. Just before I left eight soldiers from one of India's paramilitary units were killed in a shootout in Jammu. This is a step change for Indian security forces. Hence the paranoia. And who does trust Zardari?
The fact is in the region India and Pakistan remain permanent neighbours. India's leaders have for years been warning anyone who cared to listen about the rise of militant armed jehadism. Delhi knows all about blowback - the LTTE and Sikh Fundamentalism were aided by Delhi until they bite the hand that fed them. Pakistan's army has yet to face up to what they have done in the name of saving their country. Until Rawalpindi Corps stops vetoing normal relations with India (because officers believe in bleeding India until Kashmir becomes theirs), there will be no meaningful talks, no substantive outcomes and no enduring peace.