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A washingtonpost.com article from: alvi_saima@yahoo.com
by alvi_saima
27 June 2002 16:43 UTC
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You have been sent this message from alvi_saima@yahoo.com as a courtesy of the 
Washington Post - http://www.washingtonpost.com 
 To view the entire article, go to 
 Peril of Kashmir Finally Attracts World's Attention
 By John Lancaster
  NEW DELHI, June 15 -- Many Indians view Pakistan's landmark pledge to 
permanently cut off the flow of Muslim militants into Kashmir as a triumph of 
"coercive diplomacy."
  By this logic, the credible threat of military force galvanized the world's 
only superpower into forcing the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to 
go where no Pakistani leader has gone before, all to the benefit of Indian 
power and international prestige.
  The assessment is true as far as it goes. But lost amid the crowing of Indian 
politicians and commentators is another recent development that could 
ultimately yield significant rewards for Pakistan: The world is finally paying 
attention to Kashmir.
  For a half-century, India has argued that the status of Kashmir, a ruggedly 
beautiful region it regards as an integral part of India, is a matter to be 
settled in direct negotiations with Pakistan. 
  Pakistan has argued just as stoutly that only international mediation can 
settle the future of Jammu and Kashmir, as India calls the Muslim-majority 
state it absorbed over Pakistan's objections when the two countries were 
founded in 1947.
  The United States has long endorsed the Indian view and officially still 
 But in seeking to defuse the immediate threat of war between the two 
nuclear-armed neighbors, the U.S. and British envoys who have trooped through 
the region in recent weeks have emphasized the urgent need for India and 
Pakistan to resume their "dialogue" over Kashmir as soon as possible.
  In that regard, the envoys' pleas reflect growing recognition in Washington 
and other Western capitals, and even among some Indians, that the once-obscure 
Kashmir struggle is simply too dangerous to be left alone by the rest of the 
  "I don't think mediation is in the cards right now, but clearly the recent 
crisis has put Kashmir on the international agenda in a way that it never has 
been before," Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said last week on 
PBS's "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." "There will be a lot of international 
attention to attempting to find a resolution to the question."
  Indian officials have welcomed the role played by U.S. envoys such as 
Armitage -- who earlier this month conveyed to New Delhi Musharraf's pledge to 
stop militant infiltrations -- in defusing the latest crisis. But that is not 
the same, they say, as endorsing the idea of outside mediation in the Kashmir 
dispute itself.
  "There is a big difference between a mediating role and a facilitative role," 
said India's deputy foreign minister, Omar Abdullah, a member of Parliament 
from Kashmir. "Mediation is when they actually sit down at the table with us. 
That is not going to happen."
  On the other hand, he added in a telephone interview from Srinagar, the 
summer capital of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, "I think things are 
different now. There is an overwhelming understanding in India and Pakistan 
that this can't continue, that we have to work out some sort of solution now."
  Some Indian analysts have begun wondering why the governing coalition led by 
the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party does not rethink its position on 
outside involvement in Kashmir, given India and Pakistan's dubious track record 
on trying to solve the problem themselves.
  An editorial last week in the Times of India, the leading establishment 
newspaper here, criticized the government for failing to appreciate 
Washington's desire to provide Musharraf with some "assurance" on Kashmir in 
exchange for his recent pledge.
  "Just why does 'mediation' so frighten our politico-security establishment?" 
the paper asked. "More and more Indian analysts are today speaking about U.S. 
intervention in Kashmir. From their point, clearly, India can only gain from 
this. Why not start having a debate on the dreaded 'M-word'?"
  Pakistan's long-standing enthusiasm for outside involvement in the Kashmir 
dispute stems from its position of relative weakness. Like the Palestinian 
Authority, Pakistan lacks the military muscle to achieve its territorial goals 
by force and therefore hopes to leverage its position by "internationalizing" 
the conflict.
  Few foresee the United States, or any outside power, trying to duplicate the 
American role in the Middle East, where U.S. diplomats have been intimately 
involved in the search for a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement since the 
1991 Madrid conference.
  That is because India, ever since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, 
has regarded its only majority-Muslim state as a validation of its core 
self-image: a secular democracy filled with ethnic and religious minorities 
united by history and culture. To invite outside involvement in resolving the 
Kashmir dispute, the standard argument goes, would only encourage separatist 
movements in other parts of the country.
  India's suspicion of outside involvement also stems from its resentment of 
the United Nations, which called for a referendum to determine the future of 
Kashmir after India sought its help in repelling a Pakistani invasion of the 
region in 1947. 
 At the time of independence, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by a 
Hindu prince, who chose to accede to India over Pakistan. But Pakistan has 
never recognized the legality of the accession.
  There was certainly no question of having U.S. involvement in the dispute 
during the Cold War, when India drew close to the Soviet Union and relations 
with Washington were prickly in the best of times. But the collapse of the 
Soviet Union created new opportunities and imperatives for American diplomacy 
in the region, as U.S. officials began to appreciate India's economic potential 
and its value as a strategic counterweight to China.
  Washington also has forged close ties to Musharraf's government, a crucial 
ally in the war on terrorism since Musharraf ended his government's support for 
Afghanistan's Taliban movement and enlisted the Pakistani army in the hunt for 
members of al Qaeda.
  By some reckonings, U.S. involvement in Kashmir actually began in July 1999, 
when President Bill Clinton prevailed upon then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz 
Sharif to end Pakistan's support for a militant incursion at Kargil that 
threatened to catapult India and Pakistan into full-scale war.
  Since both countries tested nuclear weapons in 1998, the United States and 
other major powers have had an obvious interest in preventing a major conflict 
over Kashmir. 
 The Bush administration has also expressed concern that the latest 
confrontation could distract Pakistan from tracking down al Qaeda fighters who 
have taken refuge there.
  At the same time, analysts say, the United States is now uniquely positioned 
to help resolve the Kashmir dispute, given its warm relations with the two main 
combatants and its compelling interest in prosecuting the war on terrorism, to 
say nothing of avoiding nuclear war.
  J.N. Dixit,  a former Indian foreign secretary, argued that U.S. intervention 
in the crisis "has had a positive impact, in my judgment, in defusing a highly 
critical situation." As a consequence, he said, "I would welcome the United 
States and other important powers facilitating a direct dialogue between India 
and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue."
  Salman Khursheed, a leader of the opposition Congress Party and a former 
foreign minister, is one of many Indians who are critical of the idea of U.S. 
mediation. "I don't think the people of India want Americans to come and 
dominate and tell us what to do in this part of the world," he said. "They have 
not accepted the unilateral intervention of America in Europe, in Afghanistan, 
after all."
  On the other hand, he said, the experience of the past few weeks can point to 
only one conclusion: "American involvement is inevitable."
  Special correspondent Rama Lakshmi contributed to this report.


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