Pakistan extends hand to India

That ongoing tensions between Pakistan and India present a serious obstacle to long-term peace and stability in the region is well known. In addition to straining relations between two nuclear powers (Pakistan and India), the dispute over Kashmir resulted in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) supporting Taliban and possibly al Qaeda militants in the region as a “strategic asset” in their struggles with India. This resulted in the blowback we see today, as militants shed any pretense of control by the ISI and began taking over Pakistani villages and declaring Shari’a rule.

As such, diplomats and international security experts have been long saying that an important part of a successful strategy in the Af-Pak region is to heal old wounds between Pakistan and India. While this will not come easily, it’s good to see that Pakistan President Zardari is making the important move of extending a hand to India:

President Asif Ali Zardari urged India on Monday to resume the process of composite dialogue ‘unconditionally’ to jointly address common problems, including terrorism.

Violence and militancy were no solution to political problems, the president said during a meeting with Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, the executive director of Kashmir Centre in Washington.

The president said the ‘merchants of war’ promoted violence for settling political disputes, but this had to be resisted through recourse to peaceful indigenous political movements.

Talks with India had begun to reach important breakthroughs, but were derailed following the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year. This effort by the Pakistani government to extend an invitation to resume the talks, especially as the government shows it is serious about defeating militants at home, is an important step forward.

Next week, both Pakistan President Zardari and India PM Manmohan Singh will be in Russia for the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) Summit. Hopefully the two will meet with one another there and begin the important work of bringing together their two countries in cooperation to strengthen their security and economies.