President Bill Clinton once called the border between India and Pakistan the most dangerous place on Earth. The two countries have been at war with each other on four separate occasions with numerous skirmishes in between. In 1948, 1965 and 1999 war was fought over Kashmir, and in 1971 it was over East Pakistan, later Bangladesh. There have been numerous peace talks, but in some cases the talks seem to have exacerbated the conflict.
Complicating the issues has been access to Middle East oil. The Chinese have embarked on a great road-building effort to bypass the Malacca Straits—through which they get their oil supplies and which can be bottled up by the U.S. Navy in times of conflict—by reviving the old Silk Routes to Asia and beyond. Part of this old Silk Route makes its way through Kashmir and into the Pakistani port of Gwadar, on the Persian Gulf. This also helps China keep India, a potential rival in Asia, on the defensive. Kashmir, containing both the headwaters of the great rivers of South Asia as well as the trade routes linking China to the Gulf, is key. Pakistan sees Kashmir as central to its identity and with China’s support, sees little advantage in seeking peace. India, with its nationalist government, will see any flexibility on its part as a sign of weakness. And the United States is determined to contain China any way it can.
Meanwhile the search for enduring peace between these two countries continues.
Helping us understand the various sides of the issues and the conditions required for peace are two former ambassadors and two journalists, all of whom have been, at one stage or another, involved with the peace process.
Former Ambassador, Pakistan; Author, Hostility, A Diplomat's Journey on Pakistan-India Relations
Lyle and Corrine Nelson International Fellow, Stanford University; Executive Editor, Kashmir Times
Former Ambassador and Foreign Secretary, India; Author, The Fractured Himalayas, India, Tibet and China
Neiman Fellow, Harvard University; Editor, Aman ki Asha.
Ph.D., Former Fellow, Stanford University—Moderator