WASHINGTON, Jul 15 (APP): As Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton prepares to begin her first visit to India, top experts
said a just settlement of the lingering Kashmir conflict would help the United
States’ high-stakes fight against terrorism, removing a major cause of militancy and
a potential nuclear flashpoint from South Asia. “There is little doubt that normalized relations between
India and Pakistan, including a regionally acceptable settlement on Kashmir,
would offer tremendous benefits to the United States,” Daniel Markey, a former
State Department adviser, said.
“Indo-Pak tensions are especially dangerous because they
bring two nuclear states toe-to-toe; they distract Islamabad from the urgent
task of combating terrorists and militants on its own soil; and they contribute
to Pakistani suspicions about India’s activities in Afghanistan,” he told
Council on Foreign Relations.
Markey underscored that the “long-standing dispute over
Kashmir is one part of a wider regional dynamic that has direct implications for
Washington’s ability to support a stable Afghan state and to address the threat
posed by terrorist groups in South Asia.”
However, he felt that Washington should press publicly for
concessions from either side on the issue. He also called for a strict action
against militants of a banned Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit, accused of involvement in
late last year’s Mumbai attacks.
Howard B. Schaffer, Deputy Director and Director of
Studies, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, said the
unsettled Kashmir dispute poses a potentially serious threat to the expanding
interests the United States now has in South Asia.
“Any conflict between India and Pakistan sparked by the
dispute could escalate into a catastrophic nuclear war. Pakistan’s critical role
since September 11, 2001, in shaping the future of Afghanistan has given the
issue a further major dimension.”
He argued that extremists seek to stir up tension between
the two countries and warned that until a settlement is reached, there will be
no dearth of spoilers eager for opportunities to inflame India-Pakistan
“Washington should look for opportunities to play a more
active role in helping resolve the dispute while recognizing that this won’t be
easy. These opportunities will arise only when there are strong governments in
both countries willing and able to make the difficult concessions necessary for
a settlement. And before the United States becomes more involved, India-Pakistan
relations must improve from their present dismal state.”
“Any eventual U.S. diplomatic involvement should be
unobtrusive and avoid fanfare.”
M. Farooq Kathwari, Chairman, Kashmir Study Group said the
conflict in South Asia poses serious economic and security threats to U.S.
interests and favored high-level diplomacy by Washington toward resolution of
the Kashmir dispute.
“India and Pakistan need to engage in composite
bilateral talks on all
important issues. Recurrent tensions over Kashmir
will undercut any initiative to bring stability to South Asia as well as
perpetuate the risk of a nuclear war.
“While the ultimate responsibility of negotiating a
solution is with the involved parties, it is also the right time for the United
States to pursue creative, persistent, and discreet high-level diplomacy to help
move the peace process forward,” Kathwari, a leading businessman of Kashmiri
Hasan-Askari Rizvi, an independent political and
defense analyst, told
the Council that improvement of India-Pakistan
relations and the resolution of the Kashmir conflict would strengthen Pakistan’s
role in the ongoing U.S. efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism in
Afghanistan and Pakistan and stabilize those countries.
“This is especially important because Pakistan’s civilian
leadership and military top brass are now unanimous in viewing all Taliban
groups and their allies as a threat to the stability of Pakistan and the
He stressed that Pakistan’s political right and Islamic
elements take advantage of troubled India-Pakistan relations—especially the
non-resolution of the Kashmir conflict—to argue that India, rather than the
Taliban, is a threat to Pakistan.
“Improved India-Pakistan relations and resolution of major
disputes, including Kashmir, will make these militant groups irrelevant and
increase the Pakistani government’s ability to curb them.”
“The Obama administration is most suited to help ease
tension between India and Pakistan and improve their bilateral relations because
it has equally cordial relations with both countries.”
He said the Obama administration can help the two sides
make the dialogue results oriented. If the less complicated issues—the Siachen
Glacier, Sir Creek boundary, and the water issue—are resolved, this would
produce enough goodwill to resolve the Kashmir conflict. “The U.S.
administration should be more assertive in working toward
improved India-Pakistan relations.”
C. Raja Mohan, Professor, S. Rajaratnam School of
International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, opposed U.S.
intervention in the dispute while commenting from an Indian perspective. He
told the CFR that from 2003-2007, Delhi and Islamabad unveiled many
confidence-building measures in Kashmir for the first time since the partition
of the subcontinent. Above all, Indian and Pakistani leaders negotiated, through
an official back channel, the framework of a political settlement on Kashmir. He
claimed the Obama administration stepped back from the initial impulse to
reinject the U.S. into Kashmir but said it should persist in building on Obama’s
insight that the conflicts on the eastern and western borders of Pakistan are