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India, Pakistan Achieve Much More Than a Friendly Game

Talks between India and Pakistan to boost trade and trust to bolster peace between the nuclear-armed neighbors signal the intent of both sides to carry forward the momentum of their already-thawing relations. 

In his three-day visit to New Delhi, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Sunday watched with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the early parts of the final one-day match of an India-Pakistan cricket series before the two headed for political talks.


The game is no doubt not just about cricket.


The two sides vowed to revive a joint commission to boost business ties and discussed opening more trade routes and potential pipelines to bring gas from Iran or Turkmenistan to India via Pakistan.


A train service between the Indian state of Rajasthan and Pakistan's Sindh Province will become operational by December.


Both sides also want to roll back the number of troops deployed on the high Himalayan Siachen Glacier, a barely survivable spot claimed by both -- an encouraging breakthrough three years after the atomic adversaries stood on the brink of war.


For all who have watched with lingering doubts over a possible end of decades-old hostility between the two, the latest move is cause for optimism.


It shows there is a shared political will that believes antagonism is not a desirable option.


Musharraf's Indian trip comes at a time when India-Pakistan peace talks seem to have found their footing.


The most tangible sign of that came earlier this month with the launch of the first Kashmir bus service between the two countries in almost 60 years.


Both sides have displayed flexibility and pragmatism, especially on the Kashmir issue that has bedeviled bilateral ties for decades.


Perhaps the most significant outcome of Sunday's talks was the willingness shown to make life easier for the people residing on both sides of the border in Kashmir.


The Indian prime minister stressed that although the border could not be redrawn, more could be done to bring Kashmiris from both sides together.


Islamabad appeared reconciled to India's position on the territorial aspect of Kashmir.


The two sides also decided to increase the frequency of the cross-Kashmir bus service, and identify more places along the "Line of Control" separating the two sides in Kashmir, which could be opened to traffic.


The decisions marked a major shift in how India and Pakistan have approached Kashmir, which has been the cause of two of their three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, and has the potential to derail any peace initiative.


The whole emphasis on the issue in the past was on defending positions, and trying to score points over each other. Now it is heartening to see they are discussing new ideas.


The vast goodwill among the people of the two countries needs to be acknowledged and built upon.


In spite of all their former antagonistic rhetoric, both need to take a new shot at peace and thwart pitfalls that undermined earlier attempts to bridge the rift.


(China Daily April 19, 2005)

'Cricket Diplomacy' Scores Victory
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Pakistan, India Agree on Cross-Kashmir Bus
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