South Asian papers gave extensive coverage to the goodwill journey of Indian Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee, who crossed the Indo-Pakistani border on a bus this weekend to meet with his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. According to Karachi’s Dawn, Pakistan’s foreign minister emphasized that nuclearization had given rise to new challenges and opportunities by bringing the two countries to “a defining moment.”
The two day summit culminated in the Lahore Declaration, in which the parties resolved to intensify efforts to solve the Kashmir issue through ministerial talks and agreed to a series of “confidence-building measures.” These measures include providing advance warning of ballistic missile tests and the continuation of the nations’ respective unilateral moratoriums on nuclear testing. The countries plan to ease travel restrictions, and Sharif is expected to take a trip to New Delhi. The Times of India called the visit “a new chapter of amity in Indo-Pakistan relations,” while the Independent pointed toward organized protests in Lahore as evidence that the “commitment to neighborly amity is still less than total.”
The papers highlighted the symbolism of the event. Vajpayee is the first Indian prime minister to visit Pakistan in the last 10 years. His visit marked the opening of the first regular bus route between the quarrelling nations since their foundation over 50 years ago. The Hindu of Madras quotes Vajpayee’s suggestion that “the running of the bus between the two countries symbolizes the desire of the people to improve relations.” The Guardian of London quotes Pakistan’s information minister’s assertion that “in a situation where people don’t even make gestures, this is a powerful sign.” Nevertheless, the Indian papers differed in their assessment of the summit’s outcome. The Hindu commented that “this modest outcome was on expected lines and while it provided a framework for a new beginning, a lot would depend on the follow-up,” whereas the Times of India wrote that the “bold steps” in the memorandum of understanding “set the tone for a shared vision of peace and stability.”
The coverage in Pakistani papers was tepid. The Lahore-based Nation reported that the visit took place “amidst feeling of both apprehension and optimism.” By contrast, the coverage of the visit to Pakistan of China’s defense minister in Karachi’s Dawn was glowing.
Headlines throughout the world were also dominated by the stalled Kosovo peace talks. Nine hours after the NATO deadline for a deal on returning autonomy to the Yugoslavian province had passed, the French foreign minister announced that the deadline had been extended by three days, thus forestalling the airstrikes that NATO had threatened. The Sunday papers placed the blame for the deadlock on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic’s intransigent refusal to countenance a NATO-led force as peacekeepers, despite the fact that Kosovo Albanians were holding out for a referendum on independence once the three year interim period covered by the proposed settlement expired. Britain’s Daily Telegraph called Milosevic “Belgrade’s master of brinksmanship.” The Sunday Times of London commented that the stalemate evinced NATO’s weak hand in forcing a settlement.
In a story titled “US fails to win right to bomb Kosovo,” Britain’s Independent commented Monday that the Kosovo Albanians’ refusal to unilaterally sign on to the settlement frustrated U.S. attempts to corner Milosevic with the choice of accepting the peace package or facing airstrikes. The paper remarked that the Kosovo Albanians’ refusal to assent makes it more likely that the talks will end in “a fudged compromise.”
The Sunday Times reported that British police have had some success in sartorial sleuthing. A computerized database of footprints found at crime scenes reveals that Reebok Classics recently displaced Nike Air Max as the favorite footwear of British criminals. In one case, police used a shoe print to link an unlucky Nike loyalist to 36 other crimes. The paper said that although the police cannot use sneaker stereotyping to arrest people, officers are told to watch out for suspicious shoes. Readers beware of choice of footwear when in a country without a bill of rights!