Ceasefire, water rows, big blows to Indo-Pak peace: analysts
KARACHI: A tentative year-old peace process between India and Pakistan has suffered its first serious setbacks, with rows over a ceasefire and a dam re-igniting tensions between the nuclear rivals, analysts said.
Months of delicate work unravelled in the space of a day, starting when Islamabad said on Tuesday it was asking the World Bank to intervene in a long-running dispute over New Delhi’s building of Baglihar Dam in Jammu and Kashmir.
Hours later India accused Pakistan of breaking a November 2003 ceasefire after mortar rounds crashed into Kashmir. Islamabad rejected the charge.
“The atmosphere is once again getting tense,” analyst Moonis Ahmer said. “It is still not the war-like situation seen in 2002, but the beginning of 2005 is not good,” said the professor of International Relations at Karachi University.
It was the subcontinent’s terrifying lurch to the brink of nuclear war three years ago that prompted a mass international diplomatic effort to get India and Pakistan to the negotiating table.
In January 2004 the two countries began a step-by-step peace dialogue covering all the issues that have dogged relations between them.
Over the past year they have brought in a number of confidence-building measures, including a resumption of some rail, air and bus links and a strengthening of diplomatic ties.
Coupled with sports matches and visits by film and music stars, relations seemed closer than for many years.
But in recent months the process has become bogged down, partly by details and bureaucracy but mainly by the failure to negotiate the major obstacles to peace.
The breakdown of face-to-face talks on the Baglihar Dam in Kashmir should have been avoided, Pakistani defence analyst and retired brigadier Abdur Rehman Siddiqui said.
Islamabad says the dam could block water supplies to a key agricultural area and breaks the 1960 treaty brokered by the World Bank between the two nations — their longest standing agreement..
“Pakistan should not have opted for mediation and should have resolved it through bilateral means. It’s not good diplomacy,” Brig (r) Siddiqui added.
This week’s bad-tempered exchanges have shown that Kashmir in particular is capable of scuppering the process, analysts said. The region is split by roughly two-thirds to one-third between India and Pakistan respectively but is claimed in full by both.
“It is disappointing and can send the wrong signals to the West that we are not responsible nations,” said Prof Ahmer.
Any hindrance to the peace dialogue could encourage hawkish elements on both sides, he added. “It will encourage the position of Islamic extremists fighting in Kashmir that any dialogue with India is useless.”
However, Brig (r) Siddiqui said that while the latest flare-ups might have slowed up the peace process, people-pressure in both countries should hold India and Pakistan back from further conflict. “The good sign is that there is no change in the schedule of Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh’s visit to Pakistan next month. One must hope for peace as both have ruled out war as solution.”
Anis Haroon, a member of the private Pakistan-India Peace Forum, also believed that while the peace dialogue may have been held up temporarily, it had not been derailed completely. “Millions of people have now been involved in the process and will not allow civilian and military bureaucrats to stop it,” he added. afp