Deadly skirmishes in the disputed region of Kashmir this month set India and Pakistan back at each other’s throats.
Five soldiers were killed in the worst crisis in relations since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But already, tensions are easing as the nuclear neighbours consider the bigger peace process.
The territorial dispute between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region has claimed thousands of lives; and that death toll grew further this month. India even accused Pakistan of beheading one of its soldiers, and there was international concern that the dispute could escalate.
|“It was encouraging that the political leadership on both sides ensured that whatever was happening across the Line of Control did not escalate any further …. Both governments have taken stock of what had happened and are trying to ensure that they would have procedures in place along the Line of Control that would not allow for recurrence or a repeat of what led to this particular flare-up in the first instance.“
– Uday Bhaskar, a former Indian naval officer
Now, three weeks on, people are once again crossing the border, and trade between the two sides is due to resume on Tuesday.
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between the two nuclear-powered nations, with two wars being fought because of it.
Divided by the ‘Line of Control’, the problem of Indian-administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir remains one of the most intractable of modern times.
Now all the signs are that people living in the territory are tired of the conflict, and desperately hoping for a negotiated peace.
On the diplomatic end, India agreed to resume talks with Pakistan in February 2011. Diplomatic relations had been suspended following the Mumbai attack, which India blamed on Pakistan.
In April 2012, India removed restrictions on foreign direct investment from Pakistan, something that will help ease heavily restricted trade between the two countries.
In October last year, the two sides agreed to ease visa restrictions on travel for some citizens.
And just last week, Islamabad reaffirmed its commitment to give New Delhi the Most Favoured Nation status, another step towards opening trade ties.
|“The unfortunate thing which seems to put the entire debate on hold is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be the political resolve available which is required to take this issue forward. Because Pakistan believes [Kashmir] is an issue which is a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan … while India argues that it is an internal issue.“
– Maria Sultan, the director of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute
But despite confidence-building measures between the two countries, there is no solution in sight over Kashmir.
After the latest incident, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, was driven to say: “After this barbaric act, there cannot be business as usual with Pakistan. What happened at the Line of Control is unacceptable.”
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabanni Khar responded by saying: “We see warmongering. It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement.”
So, is Kashmir key to securing peace between India and Pakistan?
To discuss this, Inside Story with presenter Shiulie Ghosh is joined by guests: Commodore Uday Bhaskar, a former Indian naval officer and strategic analyst; Maria Sultan, the director of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute; and Daniel Markey, a senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations.