Relations between India and Pakistan appear to be improving. In April, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said that Indians “want friendship and brotherhood with our [Pakistani] neighbors.” After Pakistan responded favorably, the two countries moved to renew diplomatic and transportation links. Relations had been broken in December 2001 after an attack by Kashmiri terrorists on the Indian parliament. The United States is hopeful that India and Pakistan can begin to move ahead on engagement to resolve their differences.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage welcomed these developments. Speaking in the Indian capital, New Delhi, on May 10th, Mr. Armitage praised Prime Minister Vajpayee for “extending the hand of friendship to Pakistan”:
“We would like to see two great nations, India and Pakistan, living side-by-side in peace, stability, and harmony. And we would like to see the ability for the United States to develop a relationship with Pakistan in and about Pakistan, and a relationship with India in and about India.”
Since they became independent more than a half century ago, India and Pakistan have had many disputes. But none has been so bitter as the dispute over Kashmir, a mountainous region divided between India and Pakistan. Over the past decade, violence in Kashmir has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Both India and Pakistan are countries with enormous potential. But to realize their potential, they need to move beyond traditional disputes. They will then be free to focus on their respective domestic challenges as well as the problems of Asian stability.
As Deputy Secretary of State Armitage said, there is reason to hope that such a process is beginning.