Scholar terms Kashmir bus courageous move
21 May 2005
Washington: Instead of keeping a score card of who is conceding what, people in India and Pakistan should focus on moving ahead with the current peace process, says Michael Krepon, President Emeritus of Washington’s Henry L. Stimson Center. Mr Krepon was among a dozen US and Indian scholars who spoke at a peace gathering in Washington held to celebrate the opening of the Kashmir bus service. He said President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had shown great courage in creating an opportunity for peace, which can also bring economic prosperity to South Asia. “There cannot be a better opportunity than this,” said Mr Krepon while urging people in both India and Pakistan to “keep in mind the people who are suffering” because of the lack of peace. “Let us support these risk- taking leaders, let us support the peace process,” he said. Ambassador Teresita Schaffer, director South Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said decision to reopen the Kashmir bus service was the first agreement between India and Pakistan that actually involves the people of Kashmir. She said that unfortunately people of Kashmir are seldom consulted when India and Pakistan discuss the fate of this Himalayan valley although any decision they take will directly affect the Kashmiris living on both sides of the LoC. She said there also needs to be more dialogue between India and the people of Kashmir because New Delhi has not done enough to engage the Kashmiris. Ambassador Schaffer said people- to-people contact between India and Pakistan was a positive development but it will not be sufficient to resolve their disputes. “India and Pakistan need to think bigger, the present approach is not enough.” Sunil Khilnani, director of the South Asia Studies Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, said expectations on both sides of the border were very high but it was difficult to say if they could be sustained. “Their past record is not very encouraging,” he added. He said the real question people of the two countries need to ask is Has there been an objective change in the situation? Mr Khilnani said there has been a shift in India’s perspective about the region. New Delhi, he said, now favors a sustained economic growth in South Asia and realizes that the actual cost of the defensive postures of the two countries was too high. Mr Khilnani said that both PM Singh and President Musharraf face internal constraints but there’s a popular sentiment for moving ahead. Maya Chadha, a professor of political Science at William Patterson College, said peace with Pakistan would allow India to focus on enhancing its international status. To Pakistan, she said, it brings the opportunity for re- focusing its attention on economic progress.