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India and Pakistan have signed a bilateral pact to trade security information, a policy change that signals an easing of the two nuclear-armed rivals’ past mistrust of one another.
India reported that government-funded organizations—the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi and Institute of Strategic Studies (ISS) in Islamabad—announced plans to work together on the project during the next five years. Although the partnership will function at the academic level, it is a step forward for the two atomic powers, which have historically had less than congenial relations.
“The purpose is to build channels of communication at the level of scholars, because exchanges of securities studies had been limited because of the strained ties we have had,” ISDA director and former Indian Defense Secretary, Narendra Sisodia stated in an article by AFP. He, along with Dr. Shireen Mazari, the director general of ISS, signed the agreement in New Delhi.
“Except for contacts at international forums,” Ms. Mazari said, “we never had open discussions on security.”
According to a statement by Indian officials, the goals of the agreement are to “establish direct academic and scholarly ties, exchange of ideas of issues of common concern and conduct of scholarly conferences, seminars and roundtables” between the two think tanks.
“The collaborative arrangement is considered an important confidence building measure between India and Pakistan,” it said. The same pact was proposed in 2004.
The accord is a landmark step toward peace for the two countries. Since gaining their independence from Britain in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought in three wars.
The source of the conflict primarily stems from the different religious ideologies of the two countries. Pakistan, which borders India on the east and southeast, was created after British India was partitioned for Indian Muslims more than five decades ago. What is now India remained largely Hindu.
Both countries, however, still claim the Kashmir and Jammu regions along the western Himalayas. The dispute erupted into three wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971. In 2002, the two nations once again stood on the brink of all-out war after India’s parliament was bombed by Kashmiri militants. Hundreds of Pakistani and Indian troops were immediately deployed to the border.
International strategists blame the two countries’ inability to secure lasting peace on their intercontinental relationships, which they claim have contributed to the destabilization of the area and continuing military hostilities.
The second most populous country after China, India has long been an ally of western countries such as the United States and Britain, as well as Israel. Pakistan has typically maintained bonds with countries in the Mideast, including Iran and Afghanistan.
But according to a spokesman for the Pakistan Peoples Party, the late Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had already begun to lay the groundwork for peace talks with India before her death in December of last year.
Sherry Rehman, a spokesperson for the Pakistan’s Peoples Party, said Ms. Bhutto had proposed solutions to clashes in Kashmir and the military standoff on the Siachen glacier. She added that it was because of her involvement in these issues that she was considered a risk to others in power.
“Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was castigated and called a security threat by the establishment for launching the dialogue process with India,” Ms. Rehman said (Press Trust of India).
“Mohtarma Bhutto was the leader who initiated the ‘good neighbor policy’ and she said, ‘We have to make peace with India,’” Ms. Rehman stated.
Could India and Pakistan’s newfound friendship signal the beginnings of a fifth conflict, as with the pact that Russia and Germany signed before the Second World War—or is this agreement the genesis of lasting peace between the two countries?