The Christmas truce between India and Pakistan

By Sumantra Maitra
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 29, 2015
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During the Christmas of 1914, a strange thing happened in the Western front during the First World War. A German soldier peeped out and saw the British side playing football in No-Man's-Land. What started from there eventually came to be known as the Christmas truce where British and German soldiers exchanged food, sweets and cigarettes, had prisoner swaps, and joint burial sessions, sung carols and played football, throughout the vast and stretching frontline. Still marked as a sign of peace, it highlighted how humanity was torn apart by war, due to geo-political aims and state interests.

READ: Modi's long detour to peace

Over a hundred years after that spectacular and spontaneous display of human fellowship, a small truce happened 8,000 kilometers away as the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Pakistan for an impromptu visit and talk with the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

PM Modi, after his significant trip to Russia and Afghanistan, which involved a massive arms deal and Indian businesses in Russia, called up PM Sharif, and asked for his permission to visit him in Pakistan. For Pakistan, it was a significant détente, as Modi was given a brilliant welcome and served tea with PM Sharif. The two discussed business before he flew back to India. The occasion was officially Sharif's birthday and a wish for his granddaughter's upcoming wedding.

Their discussions were related to the increase of business between the two countries, and the start of confidence building measures. It was not a political meeting, but rather a start to a stalled peace process.

Analysts are optimistic about the outcome and many have suggested that trade will be boosted if a more liberal visa regime is established. There might be fresh impetus to grant a reciprocal most-favored nation status, and officials stated that trade is the most easily achievable aspect of cooperation at the moment.

The publication Times of India noted that the move might be geo-political and that the mighty Pakistan army is probably backing this peace process. On the part of Pakistan, it was noted as a move away from Saudi-influenced and religion-endorsed geo-politics to a more trade and economy influenced détente with India, given that Pakistan refused to be under the Saudi umbrella in the sectarian war in Yemen, and is itself suffering from huge insurgency issues.

On the Pakistani side, it was also welcomed with cautious appreciation. The publication The Dawn noted that this is clever move by PM Modi, as if this doesn't work out, he can still say that he tried. Although overall cynical, the Pakistani and Indian media seemed to be genuinely impressed by the statesmanship, both Modi's approach, and Sharif's welcome.

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