Obama can help resolve Kashmir issue

President Obama’s visit to India offers him an ideal opportunity to pick up the thread of his efforts on Kashmir. Now there are cogent reasons why he should renew his interest. He can and should nudge Manmohan Singh into taking bold decisions to end the dispute.
By: Shahid R. Siddiqi

E VEN though the US has come to exercise considerable polit- ical influence over India in recent years, it shies away from using it to help find a solution of the Kashmir dispute which has under- mined relations between India and Pakistan and remains a powder keg ready to explode.

India increasingly relies on the US for its technology, nuclear collaboration, in- vestment and upgrading of its arsenal. The US on its part eyes India as a huge market and a key partner in its future regional geostrategic framework. It has even been trying to create a role for Ind- ia in Afghanistan where none exists and which the Indians love in order to prom- ote their regional power status and keep Pakistan cornered. This brings the two countries much closer than ever before.

Candidate Barak Obama believed that US regional interests in South Asia and Afghanistan demanded the settlement of Kashmir issue to discourage India and Pakistan from remaining at loggerheads. This, he thought, could allay Pakistan’s fears about, what it perceives to be, an existential threat from India and could then be persuaded to play a greater role in America’s war on terror by redeploy- ing more troops to Fata and fight the Taliban.

Upon taking office, he went on to float the idea of naming an American special envoy for Kashmir to facilitate a settlement. But he was rebuffed by India. He never overcame the fear of annoying India and refuses to take up the issue again. Instead, he tried to convince Pakistan not to be India-cen- tric any more, giving assurances that India had ceased to be a threat.

He even extracted from President Zar- dari a statement to this effect and went on to claim in his speech on the eve of Zardari’s US visit that Pakistan Army al- so believed this to be so. This did not wo- rk. Pakistan‘s army chief, General Kaya- ni, reflected the mindset of Pakistan’s se- curity establishment when he said re- cently that he remains India-centric.

With Indian commanders shouting from the rooftops about Pakistan and China being main threats to India’s se- curity, making loud claims about their ability to take on both countries simulta- neously and boasting about their new “Cold Start” doctrine to deal an effec- tive blow to a nuclear Pakistan, could General Kayani have said anything to the contrary? Unless India shows willing- ness to settle outstanding issues with Pakistan, mainly Kashmir and water dis- tribution, neither would the US be able to convince Pakistan to lower its guard on the eastern border nor would it have smooth sailing in turning India into a bulwark against China — its long term geo-strategic agenda.

So, for President Obama things are back to square one. Kashmir remains the core issue. Pakistan continues to consider India the main threat. And by choosing to ‘please India’ instead of ‘resolving the dispute’ he has helped nobody’s cause — not of the Kashmiri people, not of Pakistan or India and not even his own.

Although a realisation seems to be emerging among moderate Indian politi- cians for the need to explore common ground in search of a solution, weak de- cision-making by coalition governments stands in the way. Influential political el- ements, who espouse extremist anti- Pakistan agenda of hate, rule the roost and scuttled a framework agreement that was ready to be signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former President Musharraf during the Agra summit, after the broad outline of a solu- tion had been worked out through secret back-channel talks.

Pakistan’s generous offer for a para- digm shift in considering new proposals acceptable to all parties to the dispute — India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people — does not draw an eager response. While India rejects Pakistan’s proposal for mediation or arbitration, in the in- conclusive bilateral dialogue that it has held with Pakistan for decades, its lead- ership has taken one step forward and two steps backwards. As a consequence, the impasse remains.

The time has apparently come for a third party to intervene, if not to medi- ate then to facilitate the dialogue to move forward. President Obama could and should nudge Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to move away from traditional enemy stereotypes and attitude of deep mistrust, resist the hawks in his camp and take bold decisions towards reconciliation. This alone can lead to a solution.

The upcoming visit of President Obama to India this month presents him an ideal opportunity to pick up the thread of his efforts. There are cogent reasons why he should renew his interest. Kashmir has been on his own agenda from day one and now the need for a solution is increasingly felt by Congress too owing to concerns about human rights violations, arms race and the fear of nuclear conflict.

“During the presidential campaign, President Obama pledged… that solving the ‘Kashmir crisis’ was one of his ‘critical tasks’. So far, this has been a promise unfulfilled,” said Congressman Dan Burton, a Republican from Indiana, who believes that this has direct impact on the global war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said he believed that “an end to the violence and uncertainty in Kashmir would be widely welcomed in India and Pakistan as well as by our military commanders in Afghanistan.” “Regrettably, the conflict has garnered little attention from the American media and zero attention from the White House,” Burton said recently in his speech in the US House of Representatives.

That the people of Kashmir want independence from Indian rule is established by numerous polls conducted by international agencies. Then, the people have voiced their ‘will’ loud and clear through active resistance against Indian occupation in the face of state violence and gross violations of human rights by 700,000 strong army and police force that brutally garrisons the valley.

“Grave breaches of humanitarian law continued unabated in Indian-Occupied Kashmir. Civilian casualties which include women, children and people of all ages have reached over 100,000 since January of 1990,” said Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director, Kashmiri American Council, while lecturing on “The Humanitarian Crisis in Kashmir” at Wilmington, Delaware.

This rebellion is assuming troubling dimensions and promises to tarnish the image of the world’s ‘biggest democracy’ with the stone-throwing Kashmiri youth engaging the Indian army and getting killed in the process — a Kashmiri version of the first Palestinian intifada of the late 1980s. With negotiations between Karzai and Taliban likely to succeed one way or the other and with the American forces set to withdraw, the jihadis in Afghanistan would most certainly be free to turn their attention to Kashmir in response to calls for help. India would then find this jihadist Frankenstein impossible to deal with.

This spread of terrorism in Kashmir, and possibly India, would prove counterproductive for US interests in South Asia. To gear up as America’s proxy power India has to grow strong economically and militarily. An India at risk of getting involved in another conflict with Pakistan and jihadis knocking at its door in aid of the Kashmiris would be able to do neither. This is not what the US would want to see.

Besides, by keeping the issue alive, India does not even help Pakistan to iso late and neutralise religious extremists that seek to gain control and destabilise the region through terrorism.

For the success of US policy frame work that encompasses Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the Kashmir compo nent has assumed greater urgency. It needs to move India towards a settle ment, reassuring it that this would not amount to mediation or arbitration.

President Obama has the image, the ability and the leverage to do this and Indian leadership would listen to him. He will have to push the issue firmly without being fearful of annoying the Indians. They have great deal at stake in keeping this relationship going.

By working behind the scenes, he could subtly lead New Delhi to complete the unfinished agenda of Manmohan Singh and Musharraf, on which a great deal of home work is already done and which Pakistan should welcome.

It would be worthwhile for President Obama to know that Kashmir happens to be one of the few places in the Muslim world that still has considerable goodwill for the US. Even Kashmiri hardliners like Syed Ali Shah Geelani have repeat edly appealed to the US to use its influ ence for resolving the Kashmir issue. Unlike Palestine, one does not hear anti American slogans in Kashmir. President Obama can build on this goodwill, a com modity he must be finding difficult to come by in the region.

(The writer is a free lance journalist based in Lahore).

NOTE:This is a cross post from Dawn News.


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  • shahbazthuthaal  On November 8, 2010 at 2:55 am

    Why should obama do this ? our Intelluctuals are still living in the
    past.Even the Kashmiries have given up on you! Your ldrship is corrupt
    & not trust worthy;RAW is cooperating with CIA/Mosaud for the war in
    Afghanistan.Their offices are established at Sarobi Heights near the
    NATO HQ in Kabul,where all the Worlds’ INT are located. ISI is no
    where there near this INT HQ. Black water is actively working inside Pakistan.
    Please read what obama is doing&sayingin INDIA. A safe base for their
    investments in all sectors.Let us be sensible& stop looking for CRUTCHERS
    But learn to stand on our own feet to earn respect by dint of character instead of begging.People&nations respect only those nations who have SELF RESPECT.

  • FM  On November 8, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Lolly -Pops of all kind. They all have their own Agendas less solution of Kashmir. Tooters are put on to make noise with no focus on core problem.
    Pakistan feels good that masters are talking about Kashmir. Is third option acceptable to Pakistan and will Kashmiris accept any other option?
    Status quo will be maintained with some variation in moods , most probably cosmetic in nature.

  • Brig Latif  On November 8, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I agree with FM. Kashmir appears nowhere in American priorities. Their relationship with India does. Americans are firmly supporting Indian stand that Kashmir should be resolved through bilateral talks WITHOUT any interference from any third country.

    • Zubair  On November 9, 2010 at 3:42 am

      Absolutely true. America cannot afford to lose India and will do everything to lease them including dumping Pakistan when USA has been bailed out of Afghan mess. India is country of one billion souls and despite the miserable condition of the people, the oerception is that India is rising. Why should the Americans even talk about Kashmir or NOT talk about Pakistan being a terrorist state on Indian demand and in India. If Pakistan was a sovereign state and not a client of America being ruled by American appointees, our Govt would have objected to what Obama said in the Indian parliament about terrorist camps in Pakistan and bringing to justice the Mumbai attackers————————–so much for us being non-NATO allies.

      • Zubair  On November 9, 2010 at 3:45 am

        I must say I admire India for being completely focussed on it’s enmity of Pakistan. That is what an enemy should. The entire Indian nation is united against Pakistan. They made it point to take Obama to so called Mumbai Memorial. On every occasion they tried to target Pakistan. We, on the other hand, don’t even know who our enemy is. Our rep in UNO has even supported India’s bid for UNSC. Our ” Intllectuals” keep on praising India as does our democratic Govt. Waj Bharat wah—dushman ho tou Aida. Kash hum bhi asli dusan ka nam Lainey ki hommay

        Sent from Zubair’s iPhone

  • Nasim Hassan  On November 9, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Dear Friends:

    American president and particularly Obama is not influential enough to resolve the Kashmir issue. The American educated white people or so called Liberal group wanted Obama to change the policies of GW Bush. They wanted him to reduce the involvement in two wars.

    However they were greatly disappointed. Obama has continued the policies of GW Bush. This is the main reason why American public rejected his failed policies and trounced democratic candidates in the recent elections. You will not believe the kind of candidates Tea Party placed for elections and they won.
    American elections are won largely by the support of Independent of centrist group.

    So thinking or believing Obama can resolve other conflicts while he is unable to even control the conflicts of America is little naive.

    The only hope is the slow rise of civil society in India and Pakistan. Arundhati Roy openly told the public about the wrong headed policies of India in Kashmir.

    Nasim Hassan

    • Raja Mujtaba  On November 9, 2010 at 3:43 am

      Obama may have to quit under 25th Amendment. He is weak on technical grounds.

      Raja Mujtaba

      • Qamar Iqbal  On November 9, 2010 at 3:45 am

        his is not first time a US president faces a strong opposition in the house and Senate. A house now dominated by republicans and a Senate split Obama would not be able to pursue his pro-poor policies. More likely, Healthcare reforms may be re-visited and will get a more republican polish and Obama government might have to extend the tax brak to the richer Americans.

        Slower than expected economic recovery adds further difficulty for Obama regime.

        On the international front Obama is already following near-republican agenda.

        True that he can not accomplish what he thought he could.

        However, I am not sure what are the technical weaknesses that will make him unfit under the 25th amendment.

        M. Qamar Iqbal

  • Raja Mujtaba  On November 9, 2010 at 3:47 am

    Joe Biden and Bill Clinton are working to declare him mentally unfit that place Biden in the office and Hillary would become the VP. Also it is being worked to declare him naturalized American and not a born American.

    Raja Mujtaba

    • Nasim Hassan  On November 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm

      Raja saheb:

      Joe and Bill simply cannot do it. America is no longer fully controlled by white people.

      My hunch is Obama will lose the election if the economy does not improve. However if the unemployment drops to 8.5 % then Obama has a good chance of winning the election.

      Obama success depends on AfPak region. The independent group in this country is now significant. These people are antiwar and do not like his policies. They voted for a change but that did not happen due to establishment. People may be democrats or registered republicans but they the educated group does not always vote on part line.

      Joe cannot dare to challenge Obama even in the primary. Hillary may like to do so for many reasons.

      This is my first hand observations. I am registered republican and meet lots of Tea Party and republican people.

      Nasim Hassan

      • Qamar Iqbal  On November 9, 2010 at 5:00 pm

        Zardari has a medical certificate of benig metally unfit (presented in swiz case), and yet no one could challenge his presidency on that ground.

        You can not make/use fake birth certificates in the US to contest the highest political office. People will rip you apart much before you go for election. Obama is a born citizen, who spent some part of his childhood outside the country.

        I agree with Nassim Hasan.

  • Dr. Imtiaz Hussain  On November 9, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Whether Obama can help resolve kashmir issue or not , Why must he ( USA) endevour to resolve Kashmir issue as a matter of policiy is more pertinent question..

    Mr MM Singh replying to a question addressed jointly to him and the president of USA about settlement of kashmir issue said very innocently; ‘ we are ready to to do all we can but our request is that as we progress ahead in defusing the situation, terorrist heaven supervenes and all our efforts go in vain’
    Mr MM Singh forget that his guru Pundit Jawallal Nehru promised phlebicite in Kashmir and his betrayal to his promise gave the reason for the existence of terrorist heavens. Incidently such heavens when exist in kashmir or India itself those by default become FREEDOM BASES , duly recognized by the Indian media and international community alike.
    USA must assert its authority over India to resolve Kashmir issue not because India is unjust and is on wrong footing, but for the reason that if USA really wants to see India progressing economically matching the foot steps of China, the wastage of resources on Kashmir and Siachin mut be stopped and channalized into human development instead of military escalation.
    If the Kashmir issue will end, the reason for Pakistan to keep a nuclear deterence and such huge army will end and this will pave way to demilitarization of huge north of the India allowing it progress further to compete with China.
    But the issue is that if Pakistan army and china will let this to happen… and for that matter the manufaturers of military hadware in USA would like this to happen ??? The simple answer is no ! Even Indian Army strategically will not allow this to happen… for the simple reason that their valour ship in Indian nation is maintaind on antiPakistan stance not anti China Stance. No one in India on popular level considers China as a threat but you name Pakistan and they will all stand and look around to see what they can do about it.
    The Obama tried his level best during his ongoing trip to india to cool down the emotion of Indians about pakistan . He happens to be the first American president to take such a positive stance towards Pakistan while in India, but it seems he is not successful and he will never be unless the PERCEPTION on either side of the border would be changed.. imagine Obama coming to pakistan and telling us that stable India is need of pakistan …. and we will believe him ???? the same is happening with him in India. No matter how much he may favour them by announcing that he will help India to gain its permanant position in security council, the Indians will not believe him unless he announces Pakistan a terrorist state. And this is what exactly he did.. when he landed in Mumbai, he refrained taking Pakistan’s name in relation to Mumbai bombings, however within three days he was forced to announce in Indian Parliment that presence of terrorist bases in Pakistan is unbearable.
    Obama cannot help in any way to resolve Kashmir issue. Kahmir issue is no tri-lateral issue, rather Quadri-lateral now with China being an important partner in it .. settling Kashmir issue means allowing Indians to face towards China forgetting its western borders and China will never let this happen ..Pakistan army so accustommed to its lucrative way of existence stand between Obama and his desires, the Indian army too will not let its major reasonof existence slip away from its clutches……
    So Mr Obama congrats you got additional 20,000 jobs for Americans, go back home and keep practicing Indian dances, next time you will have to dance to the tune of indian music more profeciently ….

  • HayesGota  On November 19, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    I love reading your blog because you can always bring us new and cool stuff, I feel that I should at least say thanks for your hard work.

    – Henry


  • By Eric S Brown on August 20, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Online Article……

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