The health care summit may be important. Or not. But there is another summit Thursday that could prove absolutely crucial: the resumption of talks between India and Pakistan. The initial prospects don’t seem very good. The Indians want to talk about Pakistani support for terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which committed the Mumbai massacre in 2008; the Pakistanis want to talk about the 60-year dispute over Kashmir, which has been at the heart of Pakistan’s support for terrorism. The amount of ill-will and paranoia between the two countries is staggering (when I last visited Islamabad, members of the Pakistani military seemed obsessed with potential Indian involvement in the rebellion in Baluchistan). But at least they’re talking–and it should be remembered that the two countries came very close to a Kashmir agreement in 2007, when Pervez Musharraf was still in power in Pakistan.
For Americans, the most important potential development is this: If tensions diminish between India and Pakistan, Afghanistan becomes more of a sideshow–and less of a contest for power between the two countries. The Pakistanis seem to be reconsidering their historic support for the Taliban; this may be the right moment to resume the Kashmir negotiations. These new talks are a significant piece in the South Asian jigsaw puzzle. If they go well, we may be a step closer to leaving Afghanistan.