New Delhi The India-Pakistan peace process inched forward over the weekend as the rival nations formalized an agreement to ward off the risk of accidentally stumbling into war, a deal diplomats and analysts said should boost peace efforts between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Under the agreement, announced Saturday after two-day talks, the two will set up a hot line between foreign ministries next month and formally agreed to tell each other about upcoming missile tests, a practice that has been going on for some time.
The agreement is the latest peak in a year marked by up-and-down relations.
After a thaw early in the year - a Pakistani starlet got a lead role in a Bollywood movie, families and old friends crossed Kashmir's disputed border for the first time in half a century, and India and Pakistan's leaders declared the peace process irreversible - relations cooled as summer got underway.
The starlet's movie, "Nazar" (Sight), ended up being banned in Pakistan; the Indian media speculated that more militants were infiltrating the Indian side of Kashmir; and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said a planned natural gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan to India had "many risks."
Singh's trip to Washington in July and his signing of an Indian-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement also raised eyebrows in Pakistan.
But diplomats and analysts said the weekend agreement should allay fears about stalled peace efforts, showing that the process is continuing, albeit slowly and a bit unsteadily.
Saturday's agreement will "persuade people that there is merit in dialogue and that not very much can be resolved by the gun," said G. Parthasarathy, a former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan who is now a strategic analyst at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi.
Talat Masood, a former Pakistani army general, said the deal "is a very good nuclear confidence building measure," calling it "a small but a significant step in the overall peace process."
But Parthasarathy cautioned that peace process was "very accident-prone."