Toward an India-Pakistan Détente
by Bruce Riedel, senior fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution
Reviewed by Michael W. Cotter
Many commentators, this reviewer included, have stressed the fact that resolving the conflict between India-Pakistan, ongoing for almost 70 years now, is critical to creating peace and stability in Central/Southern Asia. For decades there has been little good news to report on that front. But in the last couple of years both countries have taken hesitant but meaningful steps to improve their bilateral relationship.
In this article, Bruce Riedel, one of the few truly knowledgeable U.S. experts on Central Asia, explains those steps and the their potential for leading to peace in the region. Especially significant are the steps India has taken to improve bilateral trade. Riedel points out how Pakistan’s internal problems still pose challenges to be overcome, but he cites positive responses from important Pakistani politicians, and notes that the many economic and commercial interests of the Pakistani military may make that institution more receptive to increased ties with India.
With the U.S. presidential election behind us, the article is particularly timely. As we also approach the withdrawal of most, if not all, Western forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the pressure is on President Obama’s administration to focus extra effort on ensuring that the Afghanistan left behind has a real chance of developing peacefully. Détente between India and Pakistan would go a long way to making that possible. Now is the time for the administration to encourage both countries to further the détente process. Riedel provides useful suggestions as to how that engagement can be most productive.