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When neighbours need to be neighbourly

Sometimes it is difficult to believe that the India-Pakistan peace process is barely three years old.

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Sometimes it is difficult to believe that the India-Pakistan peace process is barely three years old. Considering the enormous animus between the two countries — the cause of two major, two minor and one long but undeclared covert war — the achievement of these three years has been staggering. In 2002, as many as 80 servicemen died because of shelling on the Line of Control. Since then, the number has gone down to virtually zero. Almost every Indian authority testifies that infiltration is down significantly. The positive side of the ledger shows that trans-LoC movement has become routine enough to have moved away from the pages of newspapers, as has the Lahore-Delhi bus. But for the horrendous terrorist attack on it, the Samjhauta Express was being treated in the same way.

The Baglihar dispute, though resolved finally by an arbitrator, has focused attention on the need for a commonsensical approach to the run-of-the-river projects that India is entitled to build on, rivers whose waters are otherwise promised to Pakistan under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty. The joint survey of the Sir Creek scheduled for completion in mid-March will yield a common pool of data which will vastly simplify the resolution of the problem. There are indications that the two countries have found a way out of the problem of authentication of existing positions of the Indian and Pakistani forces on the Siachen glacier.

India and Pakistan are now moving closer to resolving the two key heads of the composite dialogue — Jammu and Kashmir and the issue of terrorism. Those who attacked the Samjhauta Express may have thought that their monstrous action would set back India-Pakistan peace efforts. But, actually the opposite is likely to happen. In fact, they have probably helped to provide a credible justification for the mechanism. Neither the Government of India nor the Pakistani establishment can miss the significance of an attack on Pakistani citizens on Indian soil by terrorists who are most likely to have been directed by masterminds sitting in Pakistan.

Given the past — and some current — history of official complicity in terrorist violence against India in Pakistan, the mechanism is unlikely to move at too rapid a pace. That would require a much greater effort on the part of Islamabad to forswear what its army calls the “subconventional” operations against India. Yet circumstances beyond its control, mostly relating to the Pashtun-dominated area of its western border, may compel Pakistan to make a decisive choice. It is in India’s and the world community’s interest not to crow about this, but to work patiently to ensure that Islamabad has a soft landing when it finally makes up its mind to come in from the cold.

First Published: Feb 24, 2007 00:17 IST