Unpopularity of US attack on Iraq notwithstanding, this war will go down in history as recrudescence of dangerous precedent of preemptive strike-- a norm in medieval time when fittest and strong never felt shy of devouring weak on one or other excuse.

However, fallout of this war were immediate for South Asia—home of two third world nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, who have fought three full scale wars in their half a century life, two among exclusively on Kashmir. Subsequently the most outstanding issue among the two countries remains of that of Kashmir--a sparsely populated, Muslim majority sate in northern India.

What now is feared most is that if the stage were set for another round, as it is not very unlikely in the given mood and geo-political setting, it would be nuclear one. That is why people in region or around the world want both countries to sit and talk peace.

But the million-dollar question is: are the forces that bank on environment of acrimony and hostility are week enough to let the peace process start and end on its final destination of enduring peace in South Asia? Well, we will return to this question in the later part of the article.

Immediately after the war in Iraq was over, we heard Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha saying that his country had got a much better case to go for preemptive action against Pakistan than US has in Iraq (for Pakistan’s continued support to Muslim militants in Kashmir, and having WMD). Hawks at Pakistani side replied with equally harsh words calling India a fit case for same treatment for its not honoring right of self-determination of Kashmiri people.

Nevertheless, this mood changed overnight after Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpai in a dramatic move, on April 18, while addressing a rally in Kashmir capital, Srinagar, offered Pakistan dialogue to resolve the outstanding. Pakistan reciprocated the move immediately. Pakistani Prime Minster Mr. Zafarullah Jamali phoned Indian leader Mr. Vajpai, inviting him for peace talks in Islamabad. Since then, full diplomatic ties between two countries have been restored, along with reestablishing rail, road and air links, which were severed last year after an attack on Indian parliament, which Indian blamed on Pakistan sponsored militants. At the time, two countries moved their forces to international borders. Eyeball to eyeball Standoff between India and Pakistan lasted for months, leaving world wondering if two nuclear neighbors would be going ahead on the path of mutual destruction. However the sanity prevailed at the end of the day.

To trace animosity and acrimony among two South Asian neighbors, we can return to recent past history. Both India and Pakistan were carved out of British India, in August 1947. Before that date, British were ruling South Asia. Then Muslim political leadership argued that Muslim population of South Asia qualifies for separate state as Muslim and Hindu were separate nation. Partition of South Asia on communal line left million of people dead--and displaced, in one of the most stupid political decision of British Empire. A divide, that many a people called river of fire and blood

At the time, Kashmir was a Muslim majority state that had semi- autonomous status in the British India. Kashmir being ruled by a Hindu ruler, who opted to join Indian territory rather than conceding to the wishes of majority Muslim population, Pakistan organized a Muslim rebellion in Kashmir. It sent it’s forces to capture the sate by forces that ended in the partition of this tiny Himalayan State, which the people of South Asia call paradise on earth for its scenic beauty, in tow parts; one Pakistani controlled Kashmir, and other Indian held. Resultantly, both the countries have been at the state of war ever since. Pakistan wants Kashmir to be its territory; India calls it integral part of Indian republic. To be honest, nationalistic Kashmiri groups are fed up with both the countries and want self-administered, autonomous Kashmir. Their voice unheard, what a pity that today they are not even a party to the dialogue, which the both of nuclear po! wer have been pledging initiate to resolve the Kashmir issue. JKLF, largest single political group in both of the Kashmir brands both India and Pakistan as occupying forces, thus vowing for total independence of Kashmir. JKLF calls Pakistani sponsored Jihadi groups as foreign terrorists who are spoiling Kashmir’s political case by adding into it otherwise secular nationalistic struggle, religious militancy tint. Moreover, Pakistan’s Kashmir policy has serious drawback for domestic political environ in addition to pushing Indigenous Kashmiri struggle into a corner.

While no civilian leadership in Pakistan is trusted to formulate it, the military remains sole architects of Kashmir policy, which is two pronged strategy; to bleed India through Jihad in Kashmir, thus weakening of its security and ultimately economy; and to keep the Kashmir issue in global focus, or simply well alive. In post 11 September world, both of the tactics have backfired nonetheless.

However, the greatest loser of this policy has been Pakistani people themselves. Military assuming the grandiose role of national savior and guardian have take away freedom of civilians. Resultantly, after every five or ten year, one or other military men takes control of Pakistan leaving civilians to be struggling for the restoration of civil rule, let alone democracy in real terms. As is said in private meetings in Pakistan: To liberate Kashmir from India, our Generals have taken away our freedom. The menace of fundamentalist groups, which have mushroomed out of our pro-Jihad policy, is bonus to this.

Besides, this policy resulted in strengthening of Hindu fundamentalist groups across the border. Traditionally secular, Indian National Congress has been ruling India since the partition. However, since last decade there has been resurrection of hard line Hindu groups—ruling party BJP is political face of this cartel, R.S.S, who advocate for the destruction of Pakistan and supremacy of Hindu over secular India. Indian P.M. Vajpai is viewed as moderate among this clique. However, his party’s strength remains to in anti Pakistan tirade. Each terrorist act on Indian soil, that has any trace of Pakistan blessing, ends in BJP’s electoral gain.

It is widely believed that U.S is playing vital behind the stage role in this dramatic thaw. Political analysts say that U.S. has got strategic interest in trouble free South Asia. Or, as is being said, U.S. has picked out stability in South Asia as a key Foreign Policy Objective. As one political commentator commented recently, "It is unfortunate that we begin to behave decently towards each other when prodded by some superpower.

Earlier, Indian leadership had been insisting that they would not sit and talk to Pakistan until Pakistan denounce and revoke the policy of supporting Muslim insurgency moment in Kashmir openly, and stop, what they call, cross border terrorism. Pakistan has been denying it and insisting that they only provide moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris who are fighting war of liberation against, what Pakistan say, Indian occupation. Thus a deadlock was there until last couple of weeks when Indian P.M. offered olive branch to its traditional foe.

Last week, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was in the region to ease the tension between two south Asian neighbors--and foe, India and Pakistan. He left the region with a statement that he was optimistic about the prospect of peace in south Asia. Each day we are hearing that akin to M.E, a "roadmap" for peace in South Asia is in final stages. People are pinning hope into it, as they have got no other way to escape from the nightmares, that an idea of nuclear exchange in the region creates.

But, my analysis to the situation is not an optimistic one. To me, the forces that created the situation that helped them to snatch power from real political representatives of people (who can sit and make lasting peace) are not week enough to let the peace prevail at the cost and peril of their influence. Hindu revivalist forces under the banner of RSS, (BJP, India’s ruling party is political façade of this Hindu fanatic group) and Pakistan’s military that is deep immersed in political power, are well strong to frustrate any move at the last moment before it devoid they of their raison d’être of political authority.

So, what I see is only a gimmick, only buying a time. Therefore, answer to the situation is not asking the governments, that embrace hard-line, fundamentalist philosophy as political creed, to sit and talk but to help the civil society groups, secular and democratic forces to strengthen in their respective constituencies, i.e. in India and Pakistan. What we see on the contrary is a paradox in U.S.--main peace broker in south Asia, policy in the region. On one hand it helps and recognizes military to gain upper hand in running state affairs and in same breath it harangues for peace.

Peace is not an impure. It only comes when priorities are well set and are in line with universal values of truth and honesty, and alas! That is most what we lack in political horizon of this region.