Earthquake Diplomacy Fails to Deliver Breakthrough on Kashmir

Some 15 months after a massive earthquake in northern Pakistan and Kashmir held out some hope that joint humanitarian measures could trigger a fresh dynamic allowing a dramatic improvement in relations between India and Pakistan, this promise has not been translated into reality. Some 1,700 people have crossed the so-called Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir since a number of crossing points were opened in November 2005 following the massive earthquake. In November and December 2005, nearly 300 people, or 150 per month traveled to visit relatives on the other side of the LoC; hindered by exaggerated security measures, the pace actually slowed during 2006, with less than 120 per month. The much-touted effort to enhance people-to-people contact has turned out to be a relative trickle. Also, peace talks between India and Pakistan in mid-November failed to make any gains, hobbled by continued discord over responsibility for commuter train bombings in Mumbai in July 2006. India has accused Pakistan of involvement without, however, presenting any evidence. Mutual distrust has stalled progress on a September agreement to exchange information about terrorism.