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Perspectives

December 14, 2009
Kashmiri dispute looms large in politics of South Asia

A de-miner near Srinagar, Kashmir. Photo: Flickr user Haumont

Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan is a former Ambassador of Pakistan to Malaysia, Syria and Morocco and Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. He is currently an adjunct professor at Seton Hall University and is a contributing Worldfocus blogger.

Nonaligned India was perceived by most analysts to be largely in the Soviet camp during the Cold War. But the demise of the Soviet Union prompted India to recalibrate its relationship with the world’s only remaining superpower: the United States.

Another major factor assisting in this realignment was India’s embrace since the early 1990’s of free market reforms, trade liberalization and privatization measures. These changes opened up the vast Indian market to U.S. exporters and foreign investors. While millions of Indians are still desperately poor, around 300 million Indians have joined the middle class. Thus a new and expanding Indian market is opening up for a wide variety of U.S. exports, and U.S. investment in Indian industry and infrastructure has risen appreciably in the last few decades.

As a rising regional power, India is anxious to be recognized as a major player not only in South Asia but on the international stage. The importance of India to the U.S. was highlighted by the choice of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the first foreign dignitary to be accorded the honor of a state visit.

A major impediment retarding India’s quest towards great power status is its perennial dispute with neighboring Pakistan over Kashmir. The two oldest conflicts on the agenda of the UN Security Council from the late 1940’s are the Arab-Israeli and Kashmir conflicts.

Despite a number of diplomatic meetings spread over five decades, India and Pakistan have yet to overcome the hurdle of Kashmir, over which they have fought three wars. For Pakistan, Kashmir remains the unfinished agenda of the 1947 Partition. For secular multicultural India, Kashmir is a symbol of its heterogeneity.

President Obama has publicly stated that the U.S. would help India and Pakistan to normalize their relations,  including the dispute over Kashmir. The U.S. can help both countries. If the U.S. can persuade India to withdraw some of its forces on its border with Pakistan, this gesture would enable the latter to commit more of its troops now facing India to its lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

While the Pakistan army has achieved encouraging gains against the Pakistani Taliban in Swat and South Waziristan, its counterinsurgency efforts need to achieve more success. Once the tribal areas are pacified, they will no longer afford a sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda elements that cross the mountainous and porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border at will, to attack U.S. and NATO troops fighting the Taliban insurgents.

So it is patently in the U.S. interest to invest more diplomatic capital in New Delhi and Islamabad. India and Pakistan have both suffered from violent extremism. They continue to be plagued by domestic insurgencies. Whether they admit it or not, they have a shared interest in combating the ravages of terrorism in their territories.

As the U.S. footprint in both Pakistan and India assumes greater depth, hopefully the U.S. will nudge both countries to consistently focus on a resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio. A mutually acceptable settlement of this issue should be placed on the same pedestal as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in U.S. calculations.

– S. Azmat Hassan

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Comments

7 comments

#7

I think that Pakistan truly does deserve Kashmir, however. India appears to be selfishly claiming it and it’s not right. Neither is war.

#6

GO INDIAAAA

#5

In response to Iavanya, India is a very diverse country. Each state in India has its own language its own culture its own culinary tastes., the priminister of India is a sikh ,the powerful leader of the majority ruling party is an Italian born Lady. Just to familiarise you with history The maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir Hari singh who also ruled jammu which is majority Hindu ,The western part of Kashmir is majority muslim &eastern part is Buddahist, LEGALLY annexed Jammu & Kashmir to India in 1947. Pakistan then started the trouble by attacking India along with the Infiltrators who belonged to present day TALIBAN and Let[who were behind the Mummbai attack and still causing trouble not in Jammu & kashmmir but throughout India].During the partition all muslims were to go to Pakistan But instead almost half of them rightfully so decided to stay in India[SO Pakistan got half of the land free]. The Indian muslims ,I am proud to say have contributed a lot to bring India to its present day Economic,cultural,& intellectual status and thats just the begining.Some of the most successful, scientists,Intellectuals,moviestars,sports figures are not only muslims but also sikhs & christians.God forbid if your dream comes true & kashmir becomes part of Pakistan it will go backwards its existence will depend on aid from U.S, China,E.U $ maybe some day from India.P.S Pakistan still controls part of Kashmir &It gaveaway appox. 10% of that to China in late fifties.

#4

Peace in SouthAsia is impossible without the resolution of Kashmir dispute as it is impossible in middle east without the resolution of Palestenian dispute. World should come out of conventional and dirty politics and use all its energy and effort to let justice prevail in Palestine and Kashmir.

#3

If Kashmir dispute is not resolved soon, it can become a breeding ground for Alqaeda and Taliban, as the people are held militarily by India without any justification. So before Alqaeda capitalizes on it , Amercans should resolve this long lingering issue. Sooner the better

#2

KASHMIR IS A DISPUTE LEFT UNRESOLVED BY HISTORY AND KASHMIR IS DIFFERENT FROM INDIA IN ALL THE TERMS WHETHER IT WILL BE GEOGRAPHY DEMOGRAPHY LANGUAGE TASTES OR ANY OTHER PARAMETER. AS NOAM CHOMSKY RIGHTLY SAID INDIA HOLDS KASHMIR BRUTALLY AND NOW MASS GRAVES ARE BEING DISCOVERED. SO WORLD SHOULD REALISE HOW MUCH BRUTALITY INDIAN LAWLESS FORCES HAVE COMMITED TO INNOCENT KASHMIRIS.

#1

Your know, Ghandi did a pretty good job, but he was never able to clearly state why India should not be divided on ethic or religious grounds. This is because both Hinduism and Islam can not clearly explain that we are all a single family, because we are all the progeny of one supreme progenator. Now Hindu and Islamic factions are condemed to fight silly conflicts based on delusions – very sad.

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