The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tactics could be the first glimmerings of strategy. The confidence-building measures proposed by Pakistan may not indicate a strategic shift in its India policy, but Islamabad has taken the trouble to sound positive, if only for tactical reasons. In return, it makes good tactical and political sense for India to take the proposals seriously. Of greatest moment is the announcement of Pakistanís prime minister, Mr Zafarullah Khan Jamali, that Pakistani troops are ready to observe a ceasefire along the line of control from Id, likely to fall on November 26. The change is really in Pakistanís readiness to observe a ceasefire unilaterally. Earlier, it had always insisted that India reciprocate, and that there be international monitoring along the LoC. If Pakistan means what it says, this will help India to check cross-border infiltration. Terrorists coming into India were often protected by distracting fire from the Pakistan army. They would find it difficult to move about in Jammu and Kashmir if this firing ceases completely. Such fire also hindered the Indian army from fencing the border. Tactics may be Pakistanís driving consideration, and the fact that infiltration drops during winter may be part of its calculations. Yet New Delhi should be seen to support the gesture, especially since the impetus to the latest round of confidence-building was provided by the Indian prime minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in April.

Among Mr Jamaliís proposals was the revival of the bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarbad, and a bus or train service between Sindh and Rajasthan. This time, surprisingly, Pakistanís prime minister said that Islamabad was ready to discuss these proposals without mentioning at the same time that Kashmiris would travel only with United Nations documents. That had been Pakistanís earlier stand. Mr. Jamali re-floated Pakistanís proposal of reviving the Samjhauta Express and said his country was ready for talks on starting a ferry service between Karachi and Mumbai. He has talked of another kind of exchange too. The interior ministries of both countries should work out a solution to the problem of prisoners from across the borders in each otherís jails. Coming as they do, just before Pakistan hosts the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation summit in January, the proposals are of utmost importance. They provide an occasion for a possible revival of the India-Pakistan dialogue ó at least such is the feeling in Islamabad. Even if that does not come about, India has no reason not to support confidence-building measures. It should be seen to be as positive as Pakistan appears to be.

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