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India and Pakistan say they're ready to talk. How's the timing?

Neither India nor Pakistan has much leverage, and both are at 'wobbly' political points at home. But small agreements could be possible.

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Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan announced Thursday that the two would resume the peace talks that have been derailed since gunmen from Pakistan attacked Mumbai in 2008.

Though the timing is not auspicious for a major breakthrough, small agreements are possible, given the significant progress that had been made before Mumbai.

“The time is bad,” says Salman Haider, a former foreign secretary of India. “Both governments are really wobbly at the moment [and] the preoccupations of both these leaders will be elsewhere than these talks.”

Indeed, neither government is in a strong position to be making major deals.

Pakistan’s prime minister just dissolved his entire cabinet due to opposition pressure and continues to face massive challenges steering a nation around the shoals of bankruptcy and Islamic insurgency. In India, meanwhile, corruption scandals have engulfed the government for months, sapping some of the moral authority it will need to parlay effectively with Pakistan.

That said, back room negotiations in the recent past did come close – “down to the semicolons,” according to accounts – to a deal regarding the disputed territory of Kashmir. The sudden weakening of then-President Pervez Musharraf’s rule over Pakistan halted the effort, followed by the attacks on Mumbai.

Those 2008 attacks saw 10 militants from Pakistan targeting symbolic locations in the financial capital, killing 166 people. India has fingered Pakistan’s intelligence agency, working with the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

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