There's certainly a pattern here: The last time Vajpayee traveled to Pakistan for talks, in February 1999, there were massacres in Kashmir on the eve of his departure, also blamed on Pakistani hard-liners opposed to the rapprochement. Indeed, the muted response to the recent killings in India suggests they weren't entirely unexpected. India's leaders are keeping their eyes on the prize, starting the peace talks, despite the killings after all, stopping the talks may well have been the killers' objective.
Although the two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir and went to the brink of a third last summer, both also have compelling reasons to settle the dispute. Pakistan's basket-case economy is in desperate need of Western assistance, and Washington has made clear that this is no longer a Cold War entitlement aid now is dependent on easing tensions with India and reining in terrorism. For India, there's the simple fact that the insurgency in Kashmir is bleeding its defense budget, while a military solution remains as elusive as ever. And Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist government is better placed than any of its predecessors to open such a dialogue without being accused of treachery. Still, as Tuesday's slaughter demonstrates, the search for a solution in Kashmir may be a prolonged pilgrimage.