On the week of the 10th anniversary of the Mumbai terrorist massacre, the bilateral cooperation between India and Pakistan to open a visa-free corridor for Sikh pilgrims to access a sacred place of worship offers a rare moment of inspiration. Ten years ago this week, India awoke to the horrific three-day assault on its financial capital of Mumbai by Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, much of it broadcast live, in which at least 170 people were killed, hundreds more were wounded, and South Asian rivals raised fears of a major conflict and nuclear crisis. Today, the impromptu corridor of free passage between decades-long adversaries might signal the triumph of back-channel diplomacy and pragmatic confidence-building.
Unfortunately, this thaw in what has been an otherwise tense year in India-Pakistan bilateral relations is unlikely to endure. The risk of another nuclear-tinged crisis remains high, because the conditions precipitating the Mumbai crisis persist or have worsened after a decade. Pakistan continues to strategically support proxies that conduct cross-border terrorism. A revitalized Kashmir insurgency intensifies India-Pakistan tensions. India still lacks sufficient deterrence or defense options, and third parties are less able or inclined to mediate a crisis.