Ever since the 1947 fissure between Pakistan and India, the relationship between these two states, which hinges on the contested border region of Kashmir, has been one of the world's most contentious. It is also quickly becoming one of the world's most important. South Asia has just overcome the Middle East as world's most dangerous region for terrorism, as global groups like al-Qaeda enmesh with regionally oriented groups such as the Taliban and Kashmiri insurgents. Pakistan's support of insurgent groups, meant to counter India, causes many Pakistani officials to turn a blind eye to related insurgencies ravaging Afghanistan and the international forces there. The Kashmir region also shares a contested border with China, meaning that India and Pakistan's intense border militarization and occasional skirmishes threaten to suck China into the conflict. The flow of goods and energy across the Pakistan-India border, which since the days of the Silk Road has been a global point of commerce, is constantly threatened by military and diplomatic stand-offs. And as President Obama seeks to end the nuclear threat by reducing the number of weapons worldwide and securing loose nuclear material, two of the most armed and least secure nuclear powers have been conspicuously absent from any disarmament agreements: India and Pakistan. Iran's nuclear program, which threatens the stability of the Middle East and the security of Israel, is likely at least somewhat rooted in Tehran's desire for a deterrent from Pakistani nukes.
Fortunately, the tense Pakistan-India relationship shows some signs of detente. When Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh of India and Yousuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan met on Thursday for a regional summit in Bhutan, few were optimistic that the meeting would yield any progress between the two historical enemies. But Pakistan surprised the world by announcing it would remove 100,000 troops from the Kashmir border, an incredible sign of faith in easing the Kashmir dispute at the center of India-Pakistan tension. The move comes as the Pakistani military considers finally assaulting North Waziristan, a region along the Afghan border that has been pounded by U.S. drone strikes targeting the insurgents and terrorists based there. Such an attack would be a gift to the international mission in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces struggle to secure the country against Waziristan-based attacks. Singh and Gilani also pledged to set a date for more advanced peace talks.