ON 16 DECEMBER, the day of Pakistan’s worst-ever terrorist attack, in which the Taliban massacred 132 schoolchildren, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, called his Pakistani counterpart to offer his “deepest condolences” and “all assistance.” He then took to Twitter to call on schools in India to observe two minutes of silence the following morning in tribute to those who never came home from the Army Public School in Peshawar.
Pakistanis have long been accustomed to mourning their victims alone. In response to the Peshawar tragedy, though, they were joined in solidarity by the world, with the old enemy they have fought three wars against leading the chorus of sympathy. On Twitter, the hashtag #IndiaWithPakistan went viral.
For a moment, the two countries seemed to be functioning as reasonable neighbours. In the past, 16 December was often marked by a remembrance of old hostilities, with Indian nationalists gloating over their country’s military victory in what was then East Pakistan in 1971, and Pakistani nationalists mourning the loss of that half of their country. Reactions to the attack also saw a sharp change in tone from the mutual exhibition of passive aggression at the SAARC summit in November, when Modi and Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, tried to render each other invisible, until they were coaxed by the region’s smaller countries to make nice in front of the cameras.
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