ASIA/PAKISTAN - Talks between India and Pakistan to increase economic cooperation and strengthen peace in Kashmir: the role of Christians for reconciliation

Friday, 23 July 2004

Islamabad (Fides Service) - Strengthen peace, increase economic cooperation were the main topics of talks between Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf and India’s Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, as part of the process to lessen tension between these two Asian rival powers. For the first time Musharraf received Singh at his residence in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad. The talks served to confirm that both sides “intend to continue the peace process in an atmosphere of freedom of violence and war on terrorism with new vigour”, Singh said at the end of the meeting.
At the beginning of this year 2004 India and Pakistan decided to start dialogue to settle numerous disputes which led these two Asian power to fight three wars, since the times of independence to today.
One central bone of contention is Kashmir, border region where recently Christians committed themselves to work for unity and reconciliation. Peace, a local Christian personality told Fides, would appear to be round the corner: India’s new government led by the Congress Party, has told the people it will go ahead with the peace process. Transport between the two countries has already been resumed.
Also in the local Church there is fervid activity. Jammu-Srinagar diocese which covers the area of Kashmir, is holding its first Synod which started in March and is a history making event for this local Church in this vast diocese (second in area of all India) guided by Bishop Celestine Elampassery.
Among a population of 12 million, (70% Muslim and small communities of Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists) Catholics in Kashmir are 12,000, assisted by 41 priests, 160 sisters and 20 catechists and they run schools, hospitals, dispensaries and social works for the benefit of the entire population.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 23/07/2004 Lines: 18 Words: 183)