Omar Waraich: It's in everyone's interest that the dialogue can continue

It has fallen to a new generation to carry peace talks forward

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The Independent Online

As President Asif Ali Zardari touched down in Delhi, his country was consumed by grief. As the desperate search for some 124 Pakistani soldiers buried under an avalanche in the disputed Kashmir region continued, the scale of the tragedy at the entrance of the Siachen glacier raises questions about why the troops were there in the first place.

At some 18,000ft, Siachen is the world's highest combat zone. But more soldiers have perished there braving vicious weather conditions than enemy fire. This is India and Pakistan's rivalry of over six decades at its most futile.

While Mr Zardari's talks with Indian premier Manmohan Singh achieved little in terms of a breakthrough, the fact they are happening is an occasion for optimism. So fraught are relations between the two countries that without an established peace, they see themselves, by default, at war. And that, of course, has long suited hawks within the rival establishments.

The two sides have much to gain by talking. An improvement in trade can boost both economies. Resolving disputes over water is crucial for such large populations. Delhi and Islamabad can also address their security concerns. They will need to work with each other to avert chaos after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Strikingly, it has fallen to a new generation to carry peace talks forward. Yesterday, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari sat down with Rahul Gandhi. Forty years ago, their ultimately assassinated grandparents resolved their disputes at Simla in the aftermath of the 1971 war. Later, Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi tried to bring their countries closer until they were both killed in bomb attacks.

While many will be understandably repulsed by their dynastic claims over the subcontinent, it is at least in everyone's interest that the conversation continues.