Guarded hopes: India and Pakistan move toward peace – international

NEW DELHI, India — As the brightly decorated ten-car diesel train rattled across the border from Pakistan to India, passengers cheered, “Long live Pakistan-India friendship!” Other travelers tossed rose petals at the border guards who for the past two years had prevented travel between the hostile countries.

The trip was a happy occasion for passenger Shamma Parveen. The 24-year-old Indian woman, who is married to a Pakistani, hadn’t seen her mother in two years. “Right after I stepped into the train I felt as if I had hugged my mother,” she said.

Najma Begum traveled in the opposite direction, from India to Pakistan. She was delighted to be able to attend a family wedding in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi. “We hope this train will never stop. Let me call this a peace train!” she exclaimed.

For boys in Jalandhar, India, the “peace train” was more like a mainline to matrimony. Because few girls live in the border town, the boys will travel to Pakistan in search of brides. “It is a link to marriage and prosperity,” said Ram Likhan, a Pakistani who recently made an Indian love connection.

The resumption of train travel between India and Pakistan is just one way the peace process is getting back on track. Most significantly, India’s prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, agreed to hold talks earlier this month to discuss long-standing differences between the two countries. At the top of the agenda was the hotly disputed border territory of Kashmir, two-thirds of which is controlled by India, and about one-third by Pakistan. (China also claims a small portion.) A militarized line of control divides the region. (See the map on page 4.)

“We must make the bold transition from mistrust to trust, from discord to concord, and from tension to peace,” stated Vajpayee.

“History has been made,” Musharraf said.

A few weeks later, Musharraf reiterated his support for resolving the dispute, saying, “I strongly believe that we must not live perpetually in enmity.”

A History of Hostility

In the weeks ahead, the challenge for both countries will be to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947. Two of those wars were over Kashmir. The history of bad blood began in 1947, when both countries were part of British-ruled India. Great Britain had laded most of India since the 1600s.

In the early 1900s, an Indian lawyer named Mohandas Gandhi emerged to lead India’s fight for independence. Under Gandhi’s leadership in the 1920s and ’30s, Indians joined in peaceful resistance to British rule. The struggle for independence culminated in February 1947, when the British announced that they would leave India by June 1948.

Not all Indians were satisfied with the announcement. At that time, British India’s population was made up primarily of two religious groups–Hindus (about 66 percent) and Muslims (about 24 percent). Mohammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, and other Muslims feared that an independent government would favor Hindus. Indian Muslims, Jinnah argued, would have no more freedom under such a government than they had had under British rule.

Muslim leaders urged that India be partitioned into two countries–one Muslim and one Hindu. The British government reluctantly agreed, and on Aug. 14, 1947, Pakistan (mostly Muslim) became an independent nation. The following day, the nation of India (mostly Hindu) was created.

Almost immediately, more than 10 million Muslims and Hindus fled to their preferred countries. Huge riots broke out, resulting in thousands of deaths. (See Time Trip.) The fighting quickly spread to the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir, as the area is officially called. The conflict ended in January 1949, but the two countries’ claims to Kashmir were never resolved. The nations went to war over Kashmir again in 1965. Since then, sporadic fighting between the two sides has resulted in thousands of deaths.

Tense Times

Indian-Pakistani relations most recently derailed in July 2001 after peace talks between Musharraf and Vajpayee failed. Six months later, Muslim terrorists attacked India’s parliament. India claimed the militants were backed by the Pakistani government, a charge that Pakistan denies.

In January 2002, the two nations severed all land and air links and amassed hundreds of thousands of troops along the 1,800-mile border separating the nuclear-armed neighbors. People around the world feared the worst–that South Asia would erupt into nuclear war.

Moving Forward

War was averted, but tensions remain high. Regardless, Indians and Pakistanis are optimistic about the countries’ future. “There is hope…. People really do think something may happen,” said K. Shankar Bajpai, a former Indian ambassador to Pakistan.

Salim, a cook in Lahore, Pakistan, told the British Broadcasting Corporation that it’s time for the two countries to put their differences aside. “Where has [armed hostility] got us? Money that could be spent on improving our lot is wasted on arming our armies instead. The world is moving on–why should we be left behind?”

Consider This … Reread Salim’s quote. How might the conflict over Kashmir prevent the two nations from advancing?

Get Talking

Direct students to a map of Asia and ask them to locate India and Pakistan. Ask: Why might there be tension between India and Pakistan? How might the two countries’ relationship affect the rest of the world?


* Under the partition plan provided by the Indian Independence Act of 1947, Kashmir was free to accede to India or Pakistan. The Maharaja, Hari Singh, a Hindu, wanted Kashmir to remain independent. Pakistani Muslims invaded Kashmir to make the region part of Pakistan since the majority of people in Kashmir were Muslim. In exchange for protection and a promised referendum on the future of Kashmir, the Maharaja acceded to India. The area has been a flashpoint for India and Pakistan ever since.

* The current population of Kashmir is about 60 percent Muslim, making it the only state within India where Muslims are in the majority.

* More than a dozen militant Islamic groups have been fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir since 1989. At least 60,000 people have died in the conflict over the region.

* In 1998, both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons. The tests were widely condemned by world leaders and resulted in U.S. sanctions against both countries. The U.S. lifted those sanctions in November 2001.

* Despite international pressure, both India and Pakistan refuse to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bans all explosive tests that lead to a nuclear chain reaction. Neither country has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation. Treaty either. That treaty obliges nuclear powers to not share their nuclear technology with other countries.

Doing More

Have students write a report on one of the following topics:

* A biography of Mohandas Gandhi or Mohammad Ali Jinnah

* Comparing Hinduism and Islam

* The geography and history of Kashmir

Link It

* CIA World Fact Book: http://www.odci. gov/cia/publications/factbook/

* CNN’s India and Pakistan, 50 Years of Independence: 9708/India97/

* Kashmir Flashpoint from the BBC: 2002/kashmir_flashpoint/default.stm

* Political Information Resources: Kashmir_Crisis/kashmir_crisis.html


Below are some key words used in this issue of Current Events.

* Mohandas Gandhi (page 1). Known as the father of India, Gandhi was one of the most influential spiritual and political leaders of the past century. Born in India in 1869, Gandhi studied law in Great Britain before moving to South Africa in 1893. There, Gandhi introduced his policy of nonviolent resistance. Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and became the leader of the Indian nationalist movement. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948.

* Hindus (page 3). Hindus are people who practice Hinduism–the main religion of India and one of the oldest religions in the world. Hinduism’s roots date back to 1500 B.C. Hindus worship more than one god. The most important Hindu gods are Brahma, the creator of the universe, Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, and Shiva, the destroyer. Hinduism has no single book of scripture but has many sacred writings.

* Muslims (page 3). Muslims are people who practice Islam. Islam was the religion preached in the A.D. 600s by the Prophet Muhammad, an Arab born in Mecca (in what is now Saudi Arabia) in about 570. Muhammad preached that there is only one God and that he, Muhammad, was God’s messenger. Muslims believe the words of the Koran are the words of Allah, or God, as revealed to Muhammad.

* Mohammad Ali Jinnah (page 3). Jinnah is called the “great leader” and founder of Pakistan. Jinnah was born in Karachi, India (now Pakistan), in 1876. After studying law in England, Jinnah returned to India. In 1934, Jinnah became a permanent president of the Muslim League, a group that advocated a separate Muslim state. After Pakistan was created in 1947, Jinnah became its first governor general. He died in 1948.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Weekly Reader Corp.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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