The India-Pakistan peacemakers
Shoring up the current peace between India and Pakistan would contribute to stability in a vast area shaken by Moscow's depredations in next-door Afghanistan. So every encouragement should be given to a vigorous follow-through on the conciliatory talks recently held by the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers. They agreed that the ''air had been cleared sufficiently'' to consider the specifics of a proposed nonaggression pact. The thrust must not be lost in a return to the kind of rhetorical exchanges that hampered progress to the present point.
Offering hope is the agreement for further discussion later this month - and for establishment of a joint commission for periodic review of trade, cultural, and other relationships. After all, last year Pakistan finally had its first exhibit at the Indian International Trade Fair, and it outdrew all the other visiting displays. The Pakistani field hockey team made a rare foray across the border. Increasing numbers of Indians and Pakistanis have been going back and forth to see relatives. There is no reason relations should not continue to ease between the two nations carved out in the partition of British India at the time of independence more than three decades ago.
They may be divided by religion, with Pakistan predominantly Muslim and India predominantly Hindu; by forms of government, with Pakistan under authoritarian rule and India remaining the world's most populous democracy; and by the disputed territory of Kashmir, where armed violations along the United Nations cease-fire line reached a seven-year high last year. But they have enough common heritage and underlying ties of brotherhood to say thus far and no farther to the fratricidal strife seen in three past wars.
India and Pakistan did renounce force in a 1972 agreement. But a no-war pact - or friendship treaty as has also been suggested -- is a symbolic goal of great significance in the midst of recent heightened tensions. These tensions rose partly from superpower Russia's invasion of Afghanistan, creating fears in adjacent Pakistan. Then they came from superpower America's consequent boost in aid and arms to Pakistan, creating fears among Indians that the arms might be used against them or at least cause a new arms race in the region.
The news is that the two uneasy neighbors are evidently not waiting for the good - or bad - offices of the superpowers to decide their future. They are starting toward amity on their own.