The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It may be too early to write off New Delhiís recent confidence-building initiative towards Islamabad. Although Pakistanís response to Indiaís proposals has been largely negative, New Delhiís strategy of positive unilateralism may still produce results, in the long term. On virtually every Indian proposal, Pakistan has added a caveat or turned it down. Even the most naïve observer of south Asian affairs will concede that there is little or no chance of India accepting some of the counter-proposals that have come from Islamabad. For example, Pakistan has suggested that the proposed bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad should operate under the auspices of the United Nations. Indiaís reaction to this will be predictable to say the least. This is because Pakistan is increasingly insecure of India reaching out to its civil society. As a way of countering Indian gestures towards the Pakistani people, it has offered, among other things, 100 scholarships for young men and women from Kashmir. All, however, is not lost. Pakistan has accepted the Indian proposal of allowing citizens from both the countries to cross the Wagah border on foot, allow greater cooperation between the coast guards, and take measures to prevent the arrest of fishermen from either side. More important, sporting ties between India and Pakistan are almost certain to resume.

Quite clearly, both India and Pakistan are attempting to appeal to the international community and seeking to occupy the high moral ground of public opinion. New Delhi needs to, however, persist with its targeting of Pakistanís civil society no matter what Islamabadís response may be. Gradually, it should become clear to Pakistani citizens that their government is preventing ordinary individuals from both countries from sharing the fruits of bilateral cooperation. This will surely erode the base of the Pakistani army which ensures its legitimacy by maintaining its anti-India stance. Moreover, if Indian civil society, even incrementally, begins to make inroads into Pakistan, it will slowly but surely be able to and strengthen and expand the constituency for peace in that country. This could eventually create the conditions for peace and stability in south Asia. In sum, New Delhi, instead of being discouraged by the Pakistani response, must continuously strive to expand recent peace initiatives.

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