'I Like This Man'

Peace isn't built in a day. But this week's extraordinary summit meeting of the leaders of India and Pakistan - nations with nearly one-fifth of the world's population - deserves unusual praise.

Reasons for strong support from other world leaders are many. First, there's the much-repeated fact that the two states have, or are in process of developing, nuclear warheads and missiles to deliver them. Add to this just under half a century of cold war broken by three hot wars. Add further China's frequent tendency to be drawn in on the side of Pakistan. Plus the potential detonator of chronic terrorism in Kashmir, which India rules and Pakistan claims.

Then set this against the possibility of one of Earth's biggest peace dividends. The South Asian region is the world's poorest in terms of total impoverished population. Yet Pakistan spends more on arms than on education and health combined. And India's priorities are nearly as much skewed.

The payoff from changing this would be huge. The chemistry between Indian Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif provided an unusually promising start. Mr. Gujral carried on part of the meeting in Pakistan's national tongue, Urdu. Mr. Sharif at one point enthused, "I like this man very much." They agreed to restore a hot line between their offices. They set up working teams to tackle specific problems, including Kashmir, disrupter of many such efforts.

Sharif has a fresh landslide mandate. But Gujral heads a shaky coalition. We hope the publics (and parliaments) of both states will back their obviously sincere leaders. Peoples weary of long, senseless enmities are often relieved to be able to welcome such a change. The payoff in peace and prosperity is too large to be lost.

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