The last time Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tried to make history by extending a hand of friendship towards neighbouring Pakistan, the effort got sabotaged by hardliners within his own government. The Agra summit in July 2001 between Mr Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf raised a lot of hopes, but at that time the idea of detente with Pakistan did not have the support of Hindu nationalist leaders such as powerful Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani. The Hindu nationalists were deeply suspicious of General Musharraf, who as the army chief under prime minister Nawaz Sharif had refused to come and greet Mr Vajpayee at the international border when the Indian prime minister went on a path-breaking bus ride to Lahore in February 1999. Mr Vajpayee's decision to go for the Lahore summit was a bold and risky move, and came less than nine months after South Asia's security scenario was radically altered by a series of underground nuclear tests, ordered first by Indian government and then by the government in Islamabad. Observers felt Mr Vajpayee's Lahore road trip showed that he wanted to go down in history not just as the leader who nuclearised the subcontinent, but also as the statesman who made peace with Pakistan and resolved the Kashmir dispute. Some even snickered that he was angling for the Nobel Peace Prize. But the Pakistani army's ill-advised intrusion, masterminded by General Musharraf, into Kashmir's mountainous Kargil region shortly after the Lahore summit, dealt a severe blow to Mr Vajpayee's ambitions. The subsequent summit in Agra was basically an attempt to break out of the mistrust and hostility generated by the Kargil conflict. But the hawks around the Indian prime minister remained unconvinced that General Musharraf could be trusted. India-Pakistan relations went steadily downhill after Agra, reaching a nadir when terrorists attacked parliament in New Delhi in December 2001, almost dragging the nuclear-armed neighbours into war. As the two sides try once again to normalise relations, General Musharraf has chosen to initially remain in the background, getting his prime minister, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, to telephone and break the ice with Mr Vajpayee. But leaders in both Islamabad and New Delhi now understand that, after the war in Iraq, the prospect of peace in South Asia can no longer be postponed indefinitely.