Have India and Pakistan missed the moment on Kashmir?

July 22, 2008

2007 file photo in Drass on Indian side of Line of Control/Fayaz KabliTake two nuclear-armed countries which are not officially at war, yet whose armies shell each other on a near-daily basis.  That is how it was between India and Pakistan before a November 2003 ceasefire ended their fighting over the divided former kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir.  With that ceasefire now showing signs of fraying at the edges and India saying that its peace process with Pakistan is under stress, it is worth remembering quite what a dramatic development it was for two countries which had come close to war in 2001/2002 to tell their armies to stand down.

Nearly five months after the ceasefire, I visited an Indian border post that had seen heavy fighting for years. It was in the Jammu region, at what had been a busy railway station in pre-partition days, on a road that once ran from the town of Jammu to Lahore. The railway station was left in India, with a railroad track that led nowhere, while the road had been closed since 1947.

The station building was pock-marked with bullets, but the guns had disappeared and the grass was beginning to grow again in the surrounding fields. The Indian troops had stripped down to their vests and trousers and were out playing soccer. On the megaphone,  they played music from Hindi films. They knew the Pakistanis at the other side liked the music. But they remembered to turn it down when it was time for the call to prayers. They had a respect for the other side here, born out of the strange courtesies that grow between two land armies when they fight each other for long enough.

Beyond the Indian checkpoint, a long avenue lined with poplar trees led up to the “zero line” between India and Pakistan. Virtually every tree was marked with bullets that had scraped across them or in some cases passed right through them. In the middle of the avenue, a giant peepul tree straddled the two countries, half of its roots in India, half in Pakistan. We walked up to the tree and waved at the Pakistani soldiers at the far end of the avenue. 

This was the closest India and Pakistan had come to peace in half a century.

Indian policeman guards wreckage of army bus/Fayaz KabliIs this peace now unravelling as each country faces its own domestic crisis? The current situation does not create a stable foundation for  talks — Pakistan’s shaky coalition is struggling with an economic crisis, political instability and the threat of U.S. action against al Qaeda and Taliban militants on its border with Afghanistan, while the Indian government faces a showdown over its nuclear deal with the United States.

A return to the pre-ceasefire days looks unlikely, at least for now.  But with violence also on the rise in the Kashmir Valley — at least nine soldiers were killed by an IED at the weekend –you have to ask whether the two countries might have missed their chance to secure a durable peace in the more than four years since the ceasefire was declared.

9 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Please note India and Pakistan did not ‘go to war’. This implies equal attacks. Pakistan attacked India four times and India merely defended itself. Each time India won and then returned territory back to Pakistan. India has unilaterally always said it will NOT attack first. Also all goods made in Pak can enter India without tax, since India has long declared Pak ‘most favored nation’. The compliment has not been returned.

Posted by bharati | Report as abusive

bharati? please not that when first you are talking about attacking first that is only in regards to NUCLEAR weapons, and no actually both went to war. When Pakistan went to war with Bangledesh for it’s independence, India involved itself by attacking Pakistan.

I am neither Indian nor Pkaistani as you by your bias are definately Indian. I can definately see that both countries have had equal blame in the problems.

“Also all goods made in Pak can enter India without tax, since India has long declared Pak ‘most favored nation’. The compliment has not been returned.”

um ok, now your getting into economy there are many countries that deal with India that don’t pay taxes and there are a lot of other countries that do the same. There are many countris that are friends with other countries that still pay taxes Pakistan happens to be one of them… so what?

“Each time India won and then returned territory back to Pakistan”

First this is the first bias you look for, in any persons opnion of their country. Although INTERNATIONALLY you claim of winning every time is disputed you will never find someone on either Pakistan or Indias side that will say they lost. I bet you if you do a search on Indian and Pakistani wars you will find millions of opinions.

If all territory that is taken is returned then why is their a dispute? are you trying to argue Pakistani are savages and just like war for the fun of it? you know that’s whats in your head.

When you and the people on both sides give up their pride which comes out in the bias will you finally starting coming to peace and realize that even though you are two different nations now that you are still brothers. I’ve been to both countries that only MAIN difference I’ve seen was … well sorry… there was none. Just a bunch of idiots on both sides who have let their pride get the better of them. Like yourself.

Posted by Huh? | Report as abusive

India is progressing and pakistan is increasingly detriorating. We americans are doling out billions of dollars helping it survive. But still Pakistan’s govt chases mirage of catching up on India or bleeding India or be a proxy for china.
Easiest would be to seek friendship with India and form a alliance like canada and USA. This will help alleviate poverty and other issues facing pakistan. India is getting that at much faster pace and will soon join ranks of developed country and then pakistan can never even imagine about india.

Posted by Gus | Report as abusive

west has missed a moment the moment on Kashmir. whenever and wherever Islamic violence suits you (west) you encourage it by calling it holy war and when it does not suit you (west) suppress it by under the pretext of “war against terror.”
remember it is now China’s tern on Kashmir.

Posted by shugufta | Report as abusive

“India is progressing and pakistan is increasingly detriorating.”

Both of those counties are on par with each other with both of them facing different problems. Before the Afgahn invasion by the US Pakistan and India were equal in economic growth. Even with the problem BOTH india and pakistan are listed as 2 of the top five up and coming economies.

India is going through a major problem right now with the nuclear deal and nearly half the country against it with riots and anger.

The US has to now put money to hold up Pakistan because they are the ones who put them in the situations. Pakistan’s problems started when the US invaded Afghanistan and the Afghani’s rushing the borders. The Pakistani as an up in coming country cannot secure the border, correct, but the US a leading economy cannot secure it’s border with Mexico as well. Pakistan is being asked to do something that many stronger countries cannot.

The only reason India seems to be a stronger economy is because it’s economy is tied in with the US and some countries in Europe, so that is all you hear about.

Pakistan’s economy is based on China and more Middle Eastern countries. Unless you get news from those countries I can see how you can assume why one country is better then the other.

There was a joke I heard when I went to Delhi once. Exact wording I forgot I was talking with a bunch of locals. and they said the only reason you can’t go freely between the two countries is because both Pakistan and India don’t want you to know that on the other side of the border is the same exact thing. because of that people won’t really care about which country they live in.

Posted by Sean | Report as abusive

“This will help alleviate poverty and other issues facing pakistan. India is getting that at much faster pace and will soon join ranks of developed country and then pakistan can never even imagine about india.”

Wow, spoken like some one who buys into what someones tells them. I have been to both Pakistan and India and I can tell you that neither countries poverty is going away anytime soon. India has a larger population in poverty and only because it has a larger population and nothing else.

If you actually look at facts for instance taking a look at Mogan Stanely’s emerging market index here is the list you can pull the index up yourself if you don’t believe me. A list of the strongest up and coming emerging markets, but these are only people who know about economies. Weahter you agrre with it or not doesn’t really matter, I believe them ovber you any time, oh, and this is not the only index that has Pakistan on the list, there are hundreds. I have actually yet to find one in which neither Pakistan or India are listed.

Argentina
Brazil
Chile
China
Colombia
Czech Republic
Egypt
Hungary
India
Indonesia
Israel
Jordan
Malaysia
Mexico
Morocco
Pakistan
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Russia
South Africa
South Korea
Taiwan
Thailand
Turkey

Walk dows the street of of Lahore or Delhi you will see some great financial / business centers in both, but only a blind person can miss the high levels of poverty in both.

An earlier post by Sean mentioned that Pakistan is not heavily tied in with the US economy and that’s why us here in the US don’t know about it, but on the contrary India is and that’s why people here in the US know about it. For the globally aware people that look pass the idea of every country revolving around the US can figure that out.

I agree a lot with what the earlier comments from Sean here is his comment again about why the US has to hold Pakistan up incase you skipped over it or missed it.

“The US has to now put money to hold up Pakistan because they are the ones who put them in the situations. Pakistan’s problems started when the US invaded Afghanistan and the Afghani’s rushing the borders. The Pakistani as an up in coming country cannot secure the border, correct, but the US a leading economy cannot secure it’s border with Mexico as well. Pakistan is being asked to do something that many stronger countries cannot.”

“We Americans are giving billions…”

As if our burdon is less then that of those in Pakistan who actually have to fight on the front lines weather they agree or not. They have no choice. Any person who looks at Pakistan knows that holding up the current presidency really doesn’t matter, Pakistan’s power lies in the military. It is just nice to deal with someone in the current president of Pakistan who we have dealt with for a while and know how he would react.

Sorry, for your burdon of a couple of dollars from you personally, but the Pakistanis on the front line who have to deal with the crazy Afghanis have a heavier burdon, no less then the US solders currently in Afghanistan. Execpt the US can leave if it gets to bad, the Pakistani unfourtnataly are stuck with Afghanistan at it’s borders.

Posted by Jay | Report as abusive

As someone who’s visited both the countires; i can safely say that to compare Pakistan and India economically is lame; India has a very large economy; by GDP it features in the top 10 countries in the world and is ahead of a few eurozone countires; they have a fairly huge financial markets, IT, pharma, chemicals, metals, movie and other industries; pakistan for the most part depends more on agriculture and livestock produce,textiles, carpets and laether products; its economy is vastly dpendant on US and Saudi aid;

Posted by Greg | Report as abusive

dear huH,

let me clarify your history facts. pakistan did’nt attack bangladesh. in fact,by then bangladesh was known as EAST PAKISTAN. so, it may be clear to you now that pakistan did’nt ATTACK bangladesh. secondly, india did not INVOLVE itself. it had to deal with the situation. as a sovereign state, how can we let our neighbourers when they are massacred in broad daylight. moreover, india helped EAST PAKISTAN only after they demanded our intervention.

now after clarifying your LOOSE HISTORICAL FACTS, let me tell you that you are getting personaaly biased towards pakistan.now i should clear your facts ECONOMICALLY.

i think you dont have any idea about this.
MOST FAVOUR NATION doesnt symoloses the “friendly or unfriendly relation” as stated by you; but it states that the country want a better ECONOMICAL TRADE RELATIONS with the other country and in that respect pakistan has been lacking .

now your fact that INDIA ” CLAIM” it won everytime. my friend, have you ever heard about the term ” UNITED NATION “. go to history and you will come to know that each time INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND U.N. have interfered only after we have won the battle.

and on your question that ” ARE PAKISTAN SAVAGES AND JUST LIKE FOR FUN OF IT “. SO,my friend the answer is ,” THEY TRY THEIR BEST”.

and for the ” DIFFERENCE” that you are talking about. dont you guess you idiot that how can be their any difference in PAKISTAN and INDIA when PAKISTAN was an part of INDIA. and it is because of the OUTSIDERS LIKE YOU WHO DONT UNDERSTAND THE CORE PROBLEM BUT DOESNT SHY AWAYN FROM GIVING YOUR OWN BLOODY REMARKS.

GOOD GOING BHARATI

GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT OR DONT INTERFERE IN OTHERS MATTERS HUH??

Posted by hitesh | Report as abusive

well said greg.You are bang on target.They are currently 10% of our economy, at the rate at which the PKR is depreciating and their economy stagnating I won’t be surprised if that goes down to 5% in the next 5 years.

I mean seriously I won’t be surprised if Bangladesh beats them in the next 5 years the bangladeshis know their place they welcome indian investment and cooperate with us on security matters so they are growing at I think 6-7% compared to our 9% and pakistan’s ~5% and the Bang deshi taka isn’t depreciating that much infact in textiles they export more than pakistan nowadays.

But its kinda fun watching these guys passing bollywood dialogues against us.

But I’ll be the first to say this a trillion dollar economy we may be but we have miles and miles to go before we are even an entry level developed country atleast 20-25 years but I see that finally we got some things right and frankly it feels great.

Greetings from India

Posted by Shantanu Chatterjee | Report as abusive