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On eve of Clinton’s India visit, experts highlight importance of Kashmir resolution PDF Print E-mail
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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.
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“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 relations.

“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 origin, remarked.

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 region.”

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 interconnected.

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