Pakistan, India, Jammu & Kashmir, various separatist organizations
· Barack Obama, the president-elect of the US, suggested in an interview that he would encourage India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue.
· This statement ruffled quite a few feathers in India, which has always resented third-party intervention in a bilateral issue.
· Obama wants the government of Pakistan to co-operate fully in the War on Terror, which he believes needs to be fought in Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to experts, the raking up of the Kashmir issue could be a shrewd move to ensure that Pakistan falls in line with his policy.
· Given the political scenario in Pakistan, is this the right time to discuss the Kashmir issue? Should India soften its stand and allow a third-party to intervene in Kashmir?
· After years of military rule, Pakistan is once again experimenting with democracy. At this point in time, however, it is very difficult to correctly identify the real wielder of authority in that country.
· Pakistan, as a nation, is in a highly unstable state. Its stock markets have collapsed and it hardly has any foreign exchange reserves left.
· The US also seems to have tightened the screws on its erstwhile ally. US fighters are hitting targets in Pakistan, even as the government of Pakistan is being forced to watch helplessly.
· If Pakistan slips into a state of anarchy and confusion, or if the people of Pakistan take to the streets in protest, the tremors will be felt across the border in India.
· One major bone of contention between India and Pakistan is the Kashmir issue. Previous governments have tried to resolve the issue, but without anything to show for their efforts.
Why it does not make sense to bring up the Kashmir issue now
· Discussions on the issue have been stalled for about two years now. Initially, this was because President Musharraf was struggling to hold on to power.
· Presently, the political scene in Pakistan is very much uncertain. No one is sure who actually wields power in that country.
· There is absolutely no guarantee that any agreement reached now will hold for ever, given the rapidly changing political scenario in Pakistan.
· The current impasse on the situation is absolutely in line with India’s consistent attitude of stalling the issue.
· Pakistan’s misadventure in Kargil ensured that the rest of the world accepted the LOC as the official border between the two countries. This, again, is exactly what India has always wanted.
Why it may be to India’s advantage to raise the Kashmir issue now
· Obama raised the possibility of appointing a special envoy for Kashmir in his administration. His likely choice, Bill Clinton, is the first leader of a country to have recognized the LOC as an official border.
· It would also make sense for India to bring up the issue, considering the favorable attitude of the world towards recognizing the LOC as the official border.
· Bilateral talks usually work between two stable states. Pakistan, unfortunately, is far from stable.
· The involvement of a third party in any agreement with Pakistan on the Kashmir issue will lend more credibility to the agreement.
· Pakistan will be forced to keep its word and will not be able to backtrack as it did with the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.
· Barack Obama's Kashmir thesis!
· Will Kashmir Stop India's Rise?
Group Discussion Topics
1. Should India allow US intervention in the Kashmir issue?
· Obama’s call for the resolution of the Kashmir issue is acknowledgement of the fact that the extremist activity of the Pakistan army is the root cause of the problems in Kashmir and Afghanistan.
· If recent history is anything to go by, the US siding with India on the Kargil issue and forcing Pakistan to unconditionally withdraw beyond the LOC is an encouraging sign. The acceptance of the LOC as the border is also an indication of the US stand against any redrawing of territories.
· Today, most world powers are neutral or tend to side with India in pressing for a peaceful settlement of the issue. Any international intervention at this stage could be in India’s favour.
· Considering their equation with the US, Pakistan will be unable to make any unreasonable demands if the negotiations are carried out under US mediation. They will also be unable to back out of any agreement they reach. India, on the other hand, will not be under any undue pressure.
· India can take advantage of the rather favourable international opinion towards the issue, and project itself as the party that took an initiative in solving the issue.
· The US has had some success in mediating in issues in the Middle East and Northern Ireland and it is more than willing to play mediator provided both India and Pakistan agree.
· Bilateral talks between India and Pakistan have collapsed on numerous occasions due to the hard stance adopted by both countries.
· US intervention in Kashmir will effectively put an end to the back channel negotiations between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.
· Any incentive offered by the US to solve the issue will only result in the Pakistan army toughening its stand, possibly derailing any peace process.
· To separatists in Kashmir, Obama’s call has come as the proverbial shot-in-the-arm. Any urgency on part of the US to settle the issue could lead to renewed spurts of militant activities in the region.
· One major reason for India’s improved relations with the US has been President Bush’s policy of recognizing the bilateral nature of the Kashmir issue. Any suggestion of US intervention could strain Indo-US ties.
· India is genuinely concerned that international intervention would force it to implement the 1948 UN resolution seeking an independent plebiscite.