TOPICS: Pak and India: Pioneers in disaster response?

The terrorist bombs that rocked New Delhi recently must not be allowed to wreck a painstakingly crafted peace process between India and Pakistan. The leaders of these two nuclear-powered rivals, President Pervez Musharraf and PM Manmohan Singh, will have to muster courage that rises far above the petty politics of their army, intelligence, and political constituencies if Indo-Pakistani reconciliation is to remain on track.

Terrorist attacks are nothing new to Delhites. But the modus operandi of strikes on the eve of religious celebrations and transformational political events demonstrates a growing phenomenon within the global terrorist enterprise: pre-planned strikes. These attacks are designed to wreak havoc and undermine collaborations among leaders. Hamas terrorists have tried repeatedly to strike terror in the hearts of Middle East peacemakers at the very moments some of the most promising opportunities for reconciliation were at hand. That driving philosophy appears to have been adopted by South Asia’s terrorist groups desperate to prevent peace from taking hold in Kashmir during the now almost three-year-old thaw in Indo-Pakistani relations. The terrorists have much to fear in the mutual hard-won bilateral trust Musharraf and Singh now enjoy.

This is precisely why these leaders need to take uncomplicated steps to ensure that terrorists never gain an upper hand in defining the agenda for Indo-Pakistani relations. First, Musharraf should visit New Delhi without delay to comfort and condole its bombing-shaken residents. A day trip to New Delhi could wipe away fear and mistrust held by ordinary Indians and swing South Asia’s political pendulum back toward the goodwill Musharraf and Singh share.

Second, Musharraf should instruct ISI to immediately get to the bottom of which militant groups could have played a role in the Delhi bombings. ISI should start by taking a hard look at Al Qaeda-allied Lashkar-i-Tayyaba. While it is conceivable that other hands were involved in the attacks, it is simply inexcusable for Pakistan to continue looking the other way if it finds that terrorist operations continue to be planned, funded and carried out from its soil.

Third, Singh should accept Musharraf’s invitation to cross the LoC and visit Pakistani-administered Kashmir’s earthquake survivors. Fourth, Singh should drop his condition that only Indian Army pilots can fly India’s vast fleet of helicopters which could assist in transporting aid to earthquake victims.

Finally, India and Pakistan can use their twin tragedies to lead the world in rethinking how we manage natural disasters and large-scale terrorist attacks. With more than 300,000 lives lost and tens of billions of dollars in damage done from three worldwide natural disasters in the past 12 months, there is a growing need to establish a global disaster-management organisation that is capable of rapid response in the case of natural or man-made disasters. — The Christian Science Monitor