THREE days after the victory bugles had been sounded in Islamabad, Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider met the press in New Delhi. He was his consummate self and difficult to pin down. But he couldn't escape questions on Kashmir. After evading a barrage of queries, he finally conceded that Kashmir's status—as an integral part of India—will not be discussed when foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan get down to the nitty gritty of talks.
But that was certainly not the impression in Islamabad, a few doubting Thomases notwithstanding. A jubilant Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif described the Indo-Pak foreign secretaries' agreement "to set up a mechanism, including working groups" on Kashmir and other issues as a breakthrough. "Kashmir is on top of the agenda," he said, adding that "India had for the first time recognised Kashmir as a problem between the two countries while Pakistan's policy remains the same on the issue". Clearly, the signal sent out was that Haider and his team had to eat humble pie as they signed the agreement which spells out Kashmir as an issue to be resolved between neighbours.