The mountain air of Thimpu and the picturesque capital of Bhutan seem to have had a soothing impact on the leaders of India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani, after meeting on the sidelines of the Saarc summit, have agreed that the breakdown in dialogue between the two nations, in the dark aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai bombings, had gone on too long.
The process of negotiation is to be resumed, even though it will not be termed composite dialogue. This, of course, is hardly significant. The key factor is the agreement between the two countries to sit down together and at least talk to one another. But as Islamabad and New Delhi prepare for what we must hope will be a new era of cordial relations resulting in genuine benefits for its people, they must keep certain things in mind. For over a-year-anda- half, the terrible violence inflicted on the city of Mumbai, wrecked all hope of peace between the two neighbours.
This had an impact on many aspects of life. The process of devising a mechanism to exchange prisoners ground to a virtual halt, the pipeline project proposal involving Iran, India and Pakistan suffered a setback, the visa restrictions for both countries grew even tougher than before and there was, in the early days after Mumbai, even talk of an all-out military attack on Pakistan. The potential consequences of this are of course too awful to even contemplate in an age of nuclear weapons.
We hope that now with talks scheduled to resume, no more hurdles will be created by those who do not want to see India and Pakistan live as peaceful neighbours. The past 60 odd years have seen three wars – four if one includes Kargil – and much recrimination and name-calling. What we would also like to see is civil society in both countries demanding their respective governments to pursue a lasting peace.
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