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No pilgrim's progress, this

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's personal and religious visit to Ajmer was converted into a media and political circus on Sunday.

While it is imperative that India keeps the dialogue with Pakistan open on long-pending bilateral issues, including terrorism, it should also be said that a personal visit would achieve little in taking this process forward.

Both the media as well as the political class assumed that even a one-day presidential visit would be a good chance to put some message across. This is not only unrealistic, it is also a fantasy. For the last three-and- half years, Pakistan has done precious little to put any kind of pressure against Lashkar founder and the chief conspirator of the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, Hafiz Saeed. In fact, Hafiz Saeed is being mainstreamed by both a section of the Pakistani media as well as the influential political class. He has the support of the Pakistani Army, and he openly holds public rallies in which he preaches the destruction of India and the United States.

The trouble with the Indian approach towards Pakistan has been that there have been no overt messages sent to Pakistan over Saeed. Even the US bounty of $10 million for information leading to Saeed came after the terrorist openly threatened America with violence. India, on the other hand, has done virtually nothing to pressure Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to book, except through diplomatic back channels. And Pakistan has had the same comeback to each allegation that India has made — “Give us proof.”

President Zardari may have a soft corner for India, but it is no secret that when it comes to strategic decision-making he virtually has no powers within the Pakistani establishment. Therefore, for anyone to have expected concrete progress during his half-day visit would only have ended up being an exercise in self-delusion.

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