India and Pakistan's determination to resume talks was reportedly prompted by the second attempt on the life of President Gen Pervez Musharraf's life in December, Pakistani officials told an American newspaper.
They believe even India's 'hardliners' saw the pressures on the Pakistani president and understood that the General, who is both the civilian leader and army chief, might offer the last and best chance to improve bilateral ties.
Pakistan's decision to end support to militants in Jammu and Kashmir was reportedly reached after eight months of secret negotiations with India and essentially cemented with the Christmas Day suicide attack on President Musharraf.
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"The need for speed apparently came largely from the specter of mortality for both (Prime Minister Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and General Musharraf. Vajpayee, 79, is of sound mind but aging body and Pakistanis have far less trust in his Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, who is seen as more of a hardliner," the paper said.
Noting that Musharraf's decision to give up the post of army chief in the end of 2004 will lessen his ability to deliver the military's support in any deal, it said even more serious is the likelihood of more attempts on his life.
Pakistani officials said the surprise agreement to resume peace talks, stalled since July 2001, was the result of public steps to build goodwill between the people of the two countries and private steps to rebuild trust between their leaders. By pledging to allow no terrorist activity from its territory, Pakistan, the paper said, has met a main condition of India's.
Meetings between Indian and Pakistani officials began soon after Vajpayee made a speech in April 2003 offering a 'hand of friendship' to Pakistan, which ended a 'dangerous estrangement' that began in December 2001 after a terrorist attack on Parliament.
Over eight months, officials ferried messages back and forth between Vajpayee and General Musharraf, who came to see a possibly unique opening to end a half-century of enmity. The issue gained momentum with Vajpayee's decision to attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad and General Musharraf's decision to shut down infiltration of militants waging an anti-India insurgency from Pakistan, a senior Pakistani official was quoted as saying.
The determination to resume talks was sealed with the second of two attempts on General Musharraf's life in December 2003, Pakistani officials said.
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