Obama’s Kashmir initiative
BY IFTIKHAR MASHWANI
Obama’s appointment of former President Bill Clinton as his special emissaryto help resolve the Kashmir dispute has, as expected. gone down the veins of Indian political edifice as a shockwave.
India has always been stressing that the Kashmir dispute is a bilateral problem between Pakistan and India. With their age-old rhetoric on bilateralism and rejection of any third party’s nvolvement , however sane, the Indian polity had never expected such a bold move by the President-elect of the Unites States. In last about four decades, India has been successful in deterring the third party involvement in Pak-India affairs especially Kashmir. Given the law and order situation prevailing in the north-western part of Pakistan and American rhetoric on suspected presence of Al-Qaeda high-ups in FATA, India had expected nothing from Obama save for unswerving politico-military pressure on Pakistan. At any rate, they had not anticipated something that could favour Pakistan as against India in anyway.
Obama is of the view that the biggest threat to Pakistan now is not India which has been its historic enemy and that it is actually militants within their borders.
One would tend to agree with him but only if he makes such a case wherein he succeeds in removing the globally-known bone of contention between Pakistan and India, and in effect, the entire world would succeed!. Obama’s statements on Pak-India affairs particularly with regard to Kashmir have lit a beam of hope round the world that he would put in sustained efforts to have the Kashmir dispute resolved.
It goes without saying that the world leadership is well-versed with the dynamics of Kashmir. The world community is fully aware of the perpetual warlike situation in South Asia due to outstanding Kashmir dispute. The world community is also aware of the potential danger of escalation of discord and friction between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.
Thoughthe initiative of Obama is most welcome as far as Pakistani and Kashmiri people are concerned, buthe is not the first in line to long for resolution of the issue of Kashmir. Even his Republican predecessor George Bush pronounced in February 2008 that “the US supports any solution of Kashmir, which is acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir.” Flashing back in timeline, Sir Owen Dixon, the UN envoy on Kashmir, had made creditable effort to resolve the issue right in the bud but to no avail, courtesy the Indian inflexibility. Later, the US President, John F. Kennedy, had put in wholehearted efforts to seek an acceptable-by-all solution in early 1960s but remained short of success, thanks to Indian obduracy.
Above notwithstanding, Obama seems optimistic to make the grade. The only thing that might cross his way is again feared to be the tough Indian stance of NO to multilateralism or trilateralism with regard to long-standing disputes and a cosmetic YES to bilateralism. To note, India has even kept the contentious and security issues out of the realm of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which has become instrumental in holding back the performance of SAARC. Hence, India would endeavour to keep Kashmir out of the Indo-US affairs.
Likewise, albeit ongoing hiccups in water sharing system between the two countries, the Indus Water Treaty arbitrated by the World Bank in 1960 held good even during the all out wars. With such a state of affairs in the retrospect, how can the world expect that bilateralism would work in the Subcontinent? Obama must remember that due to military nature of security paradigm of South Asia owing Indian territorial disputes with as much as four of its neighbours (Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Nepal), militarism is the stronger stimulus than something like bilateralism. Obama must also make a note of the fact that India is the largest arms importer on the globe and squarely due to Indian security perceptions, South Asia has come up as the most militarized region in the world.
One can only hope and pray for the success of Obama’s passion for Kashmir dispute. Nonetheless his efforts are bound to go a long way in search of a just and fair solution of the Kashmir dispute.