India and Pakistan have been in a territorial conflict over the Kashmir region since 1947, the year both nations were carved out of British India. The de facto border between the Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of the Kashmir Valley—known as the Line of Control (LoC)—has been the locus of repeated artillery exchange and friction despite a ceasefire agreed to in 2003. Drawn from interviews, a survey, and focus group discussions, this report evaluates the impact and relevance of grassroots peacebuilding efforts in the region. It reflects only the views of those who have been associated with cross-border trade, travel, and civil society cross-LoC interactions.


  • India and Pakistan have been in conflict over Kashmir since 1947. In April 2005, a cross–Line of Control (LoC) bus service was launched between the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir, followed by cross-LoC trade in 2008.
  • A plurality of respondents on both sides felt that people-to-people contact and grassroots interactions have had some impact on the overall conflict; others regarded them as only symbolic.
  • Most respondents believed that the impact of grassroots involvement is limited to a small group of divided families and traders, and that the processes have failed to expand, become institutionalized, or involve stakeholders.
  • From 2008 to 2016, goods worth $754 million have been exchanged through cross-LoC barter trade, and the bus service has recorded nearly twenty-eight thousand visits.
  • Cross-LoC interactions have led to a limited perception shift as well as nominal and nascent social linkages. The economic impact is limited to a small constituency and has failed to filter through into the larger society.
  • Most respondents said that grassroots efforts cannot affect policies and that the process remains government driven. In Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, respondents were more hopeful. In Pakistan-administered Kashmir, an overwhelming majority felt that civil society was weak.
  • Some of the weaknesses in grassroots peacebuilding, in the context of cross-LoC collaborations, were described as limited expansion, stringent checks, low or no impact on Kashmir’s political situation, and lack of stakeholders.
  • Challenges include a tendency to overemphasize top-down approaches, strained India-Pakistan ties, lack of capacity of existing grassroots bodies, and poor linkages between grassroots and state structures in peacebuilding.

About the Report

This report evaluates the micro-impact of cross–Line of Control confidence-building measures, particularly trade and travel, between the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir since 2005. Commissioned by the United States Institute of Peace, it is based on a survey, focus group discussions, and interviews with local traders, academics, and civil society members on both sides.

About the Authors

Pawan Bali has been a journalist for more than fourteen years, working on Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir since 2005. She has been associated with cross–Line of Control collaborative work since 2008 and currently works as a communication and conflict resolution consultant based in Washington, DC. Shaheen Akhtar is currently an associate professor in and head of the department of International Relations at National Defence University, Islamabad. She has been engaged in conflict resolution and peacebuilding work on Kashmir for more than two decades.

Related Publications

Vikram Singh on Hong Kong and India-Pakistan

Vikram Singh on Hong Kong and India-Pakistan

Thursday, June 13, 2019

By: Vikram J. Singh

Massive unrest has hit Hong Kong, as citizens protest an extradition law they believe is favorable to China. Vikram Singh says protesters’ fear that Beijing is working to undermine Hong Kong’s longstanding judicial independence. Looking at India and Pakistan, Singh says that the chances for meaningful dialogue right now are small, as both countries focus on their own issues.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

India-Pakistan Tensions Test China’s Relationships, Crisis Management Role

India-Pakistan Tensions Test China’s Relationships, Crisis Management Role

Thursday, March 7, 2019

By: Jacob Stokes; Jennifer Staats

The latest India-Pakistan crisis has put China in a difficult position, as it tries to balance its relationships with both countries, while helping to stave off a conflict and demonstrate its ability to manage and resolve crises. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi spoke to leaders in both Pakistan and India last week, urging them to practice restraint and find a way to deescalate the situation. Despite Pakistan’s request for China to play a more active role, competing priorities constrained the degree to which Beijing could lead—highlighting a chronic challenge for Chinese diplomacy in South Asia. China’s decision to keep a low profile is likely deliberate and in keeping with longstanding practice, but it is inconsistent with Beijing’s aspirations to lead in Asian crisis diplomacy.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Amb. Richard Olson on the India-Pakistan Crisis

Amb. Richard Olson on the India-Pakistan Crisis

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

By: Richard Olson

Last week, tensions between India and Pakistan—sparked by a suicide attack claimed by a Pakistan-based terrorist group—put the world on notice. “The United States has reached a point where it believes that the militants operating out of Pakistan are … a threat, not just to India and to Afghanistan and our forces in Afghanistan, but … a threat to the long-term stability of the Pakistani state,” says Richard Olson, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications