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Church optimistic after India-Pakistan peace initiatives

The Catholic Church in India has welcomed the latest peace initiatives between India and Pakistan, praying that they will lead to lasting peace in South Asia.

The nuclear-capable neighbours have announced an agreement to re-establish air links and overflight rights by January. The decision was announced simultaneously on Monday in both countries. This move came hard on the heels of a cease-fire that took effect a week ago.

Indian Bishops' spokesperson Fr Babu Joseph says the ceasefire is a "long-awaited step in the right direction."

Frosty relations between the countries had begun to warm after Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee offered a "hand of friendship" in April 2003 and his Pakistan counterpart talked to him by telephone.

Fr Joseph said the new peace initiatives "will go a long way" in establishing a "stronger South Asia. He told UCA News that the "security and stability of South Asia depends, to a large extent, on cordial relations between India and Pakistan."

Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali of Pakistan, a predominantly Muslim country, proposed the cease-fire during a national television address on the eve of the Muslim festival of Id-al-Fitr. India then endorsed the proposal.

Fr Joseph stressed the significance of the fact that the cease-fire came into effect "with the celebration of Id-al-Fitr."

India and Pakistan broke off all air, road and rail links after India accused Pakistan of supporting armed men who attacked the Indian parliament on 13 December 2001. The two countries came to the brink of war after mobilising forces along the border before withdrawing in October 2002.

Church Hopes India-Pakistan Peace Initiatives Will Build A Better South Asia (UCA News 2/12/03)

Catholic Bishops Conference of India

4 Dec 2003