A Sequel for India and Pakistan: Christian Science Monitor
April 20, 2005
A Sequel for India and Pakistan
The Monitor's View
One touching scene went largely unnoticed at this week's groundbreaking summit between India and Pakistan.
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was born in what is today Pakistan, was given a photo of his home village. And Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf received a painting of his childhood home in Delhi.
The scene was not only a reminder of the wrenching partition of British India in 1947 but a signal that the two nations, which have had five decades of enmity and three wars, are beginning to realize closer ties are inevitable.
The scene was similar to many in recent Indian films - which are popular in Pakistan - that depict a reuniting of Indian and Pakistani families. The impact of those films on the recent warming between these two nuclear-tipped rivals cannot be underestimated.
The power of Indian cinema is just one explanation. The two peoples are seeing the world less through nationalist eyes, forcing the ground to shift under Indian and Pakistani leaders, who have often felt strong nationalist pressures over Kashmir and other issues. "The world has changed very much, especially after 9/11," Pakistani President Musharraf told Indian journalists at the summit.
Both Musharraf and Singh say they want "out of the box" solutions to end the bilateral rivalry. Both sides are acting to create a "soft border" between their nations through various exchanges - before tackling the issue of the "hard border" in Kashmir.
Joint cricket games have helped break the ice, as has the opening of a cross-border bus route. Trade will flow for the first time across Kashmir's so-called Line of Control. And the two will talk about building a pipeline through Pakistan to bring natural gas from Iran to India. And notably, the two leaders declared their steps toward peace - most of all, efforts to end the Kashmir territorial dispute - "irreversible."
The Pakistan military's support of terrorists in Kashmir has dwindled after Musharraf himself was attacked by Islamic terrorists. Pakistan has joined the US in the hunt for Al Qaeda members and appears to now accept that building ties with India is the best way to ultimately settle the Kashmir issue.
India can't let this moment slip, nor just string Pakistan along. It must make trust-building concessions, such as on a proposed dam that would restrict water flow to Pakistan. Largely Hindu India must eventually be flexible in redefining the status of largely Muslim Kashmir.
And Musharraf must move to full democracy, otherwise these peace moves won't be rooted in popular will.
Conflict, so easily supported in the past by India and Pakistan, isn't as desirable to these two in an increasingly borderless, democratic world.