India and Pakistan have chance to come closer but goodwill is temporary

Tragedies have a way of bringing people together even adversaries. Yesterday's devastating earthquake in Kashmir joined rivals Pakistan and India in a common grief and offered them a chance to shed past hostilities and make peace. But that might be just wishful thinking.

Kashmir is simply too deep a wound in the political psyches of both India and Pakistan to be healed quickly. Since Pakistan's creation from British colonial India, the two nuclear rivals have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir that left the Himalayan region divided between them by a cease-fire line, the de facto border today. On Saturday, deaths visited on both sides of that border, but much more so in Pakistan where the death toll is between 20,000 and 30,000. In the Indian Kashmir, the toll was 650.

In Sri Lanka too, another country devastated by the tsunami, Tamil Tiger rebels and the Sinhalese government also joined hands to help shelter and feed survivors. But their peace was short-lived: the country's foreign minister was assassinated in an August attack widely thought to be the work of the Tamil Tigers rebels, although they deny any role in the killing.

India accuses Pakistan of harboring Kashmiri militants fighting for independence or merger with Pakistan. Militant activity has come down in recent months in line with the peace efforts.

On Saturday, India's Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran used for the first time a newly installed telephone hot line the fruit of months of painstaking negotiations to speak with his Pakistani counterpart, Riaz Mohammed Khan, to convey sympathy and offers of aid.

Top military commanders in Kashmir also used a telephone hot line to offer sympathies for the soldiers killed in landslides. At least 54 Indian soldiers were among the dead, reported AP.


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