Disaster: A Silver Lining for Kashmir
C. L. Cook
October 19, 2005
The Kashmir, a hotly contested confluence of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan has seen nuclear powers India and Pakistan nose to nose for years, neither swearing off the possibility of a "nuclear option" to end the hostilities. Already, the two young nations have fought three wars over control of the area, and terrorist activities conducted by both sides and Kashmiri independence factions is a constant in the decades-old conflict. Now, overwhelmed by the scope of relief efforts in the rugged, mountainous reaches where thousands have been left homeless and hungry, the two main protagonists are talking.
While champaign corks are not exactly popping over the prospect of an amicable resolution to India and Pakistan's long-standing emnity over Kashmir, the two parties are working out details to allow travel between their respective "lines of control" by relatives of the afflicted. The division of the territorities was largely manufactured by the British in the waning days of the Raj, creating the new nations of Pakistan and India and effectively seperating families and friends by the new border. In the early days of independence that followed the end of the Second World War, horrific ethnic cleansing bloodied the ground on both sides, setting the scene for the decades of war and mistrust leading to the current stand-off.
Pakistan's "President" Pervez Musharraf made the first move. Following a visit to the quake stricken capital city of Pakistani-controlled Muzaffarabad, Musharraf addressed India's leadership, saying:
"We will allow every Kashmiri to come across the Line of Control and assist in the reconstruction effort."
India responded immediately, if not definitively, saying:
"We welcome the offer. This is in line with India's advocacy of greater movement across the LOC (Line of Control) for relief work and closer people-to-people contacts."
India has sent relief flights into Pakistan and suspended it's "no-fly zone" rule for Pakistani helicopters. So far, fatalities from the October 8th quake are estimated to have been over 42,000, with a further 60,000 believed at risk of dying of exposure and hunger in its aftermath.
Powerful aftershocks have continued throughout the region, further complicating relief efforts.
Chris Cook is a contributing editor to PEJ News. He also hosts the weekly public affairs program, Gorilla Radio, broad/webcast from the University of Victoria, Canada. You can check out the GR Blog here.
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