Peace process frozen?

Last week, in a draft for a research funding application, I wrote about the small steps forward in Indo-Pakistani peace dialogue: In October this year trade links between Srinagar (in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, IJK) and Muzaffarabad (in Pakistan-administered ‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir’, AJK). Last Wednesday the Foreign Ministers of the two states were to meet in New Delhi and discuss what the next step would be. Instead we have seen accusations thrown back and forth, and fears are voiced that the peace process has gone down the drain.

It seems to me, however, that India so far has been the actor with the hardest words. This is probably pretty obvious as the attack took place on Indian soil and was aimed at Indian citizens, but also foreigners of course. But, I also think that the Pakistani government is really scared of an Indian or multilateral attack. The civilian government that came into power in September this year has no control on what’s going on inside its borders, whether it’s guerilla training in AJK, ethnic violence in Karachi, Taliban fighters in the North West or earthquake survivors in Balochistan. In a case of a military involvement, the country would fall into pieces.

India has demanded extradition of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Maulana Masood Azhar, chief of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Dawood Ibrahim, an underworld don alleged to have planned the serial bombings in Mumbai in 1993 that killed around 300 people. Pakistan has refused, as they claim there is a lack of proof. Instead they have offered a ‘joint investigation team’ to be sent to India.

The real reason for Pakistan’s refusal is probably that they don’t know where these people are.

But, what is more important, instead of stalling the peace process, the Pakistani links could actually be yet another step towards friendship on the subcontinent. A successful joint investigation team could find the perpetrators, charge them for their crimes, and source and stop their funding to avoid future attacks. An idealistic thought maybe, but it’s the only way if India and Pakistan want to continue to present themselves as democracies and enemies of terrorism, as well as to preserve peace in their front- and backyards.

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