Posted by: Manjeet Krpalani on April 4, 2008
Pakistan has seen a welcome and surprisingly mature return to democratic rule. The election victors have put President Musharraf in his place - an isolated spot on the top and ever fewer powers - and are going about the business of consolidating and healing their country.
In this optimistic environment, it’s no surprise that talk of detente between India and Pakistan should resurface. And it has, through the door of commerce.
This week, India’s petroleum minister Murli Deora said he planned to resume talks of an Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. The $7.4 billion, 2,100 km pipeline - popularly known as the ‘peace pipeline’ - which would bring gas from Iran to India via Pakistan, enabling Pakistan to earn $600 million in annual transit fees, was shot down by the America-beholden Musharraf. With the new government in Islamabad vowing to be beholden to no one save its electorate, the possibility of the pipeline actually becoming a reality is high. Apart from giving India desperately needed energy for its growing economy, a solid business deal will help bolster political peace between India and Pakistan.
Almost on que, Mehbooba Mufti, the president of the People’s Democratic Party, Indian Kashmir’s powerful local political party, travelled to Lahore this week to press for greater economic ties between Pakistan and Kashmir. There she met with Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), one of the victorious parties in Pakistan’s recent elections and now in the government. Sharif, a former prime minister of Pakistan who had inaugurated early passenger bus links between the two countries, was the right man to meet. Mufti’s practical suggestion: Kashmir is geo-strategically located between West and East Asia. Open up the old trade routes that passed from Pakistan through Kashmir and on to India and the rest of Asia, make mutual economic benefit. Normalizing economic ties through Jammu and Kashmir will help India and Pakistan achieve their own security and political goals.