Just over two years ago, India and Pakistan almost went to war in their "hot" territorial dispute over Kashmir. Then, in a tit-for-tat confrontation, they both tested nuclear weapons. In that context, the world can breathe a bit easier now that the leaders of these nations have at least met to air their differences. (See story, page 6.)
Shedding their historic baggage of conflict or putting peace above other priorities cannot be expected to emerge quickly, given each nation's young nationalism and hot-house domestic politics. Just managing the tension would be enough.
The three-day summit near the Taj Mahal came with some hope that Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf could strike a deal that, since they represent the hawkish side in each nation, they could easily defend at home.
At some point, both nations will realize they can't attract the foreign investment they need to lift their countries out of poverty unless they settle their differences somehow.
Talking is the first step. Then, building trust by solving smaller problems, such as prisoner exchanges and trade disputes. While outside mediation might help, India demurs, and, in the long run, the two nations can benefit by finding their own way around the antagonisms of the past in order to create a better future for their people.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor