Monday, January 11, 2010

It's About Kashmir. Unfortunately.

The Indian writer Pankaj Mishra makes an excellent observation in a brief piece in the current New York Review of Books: "Obama's long speech on Afghanistan on December 1 did not refer even once to India or Kashmir." (Mishra's piece in the Review is available only at cost, but it's adapted from this very similar and freely accessible blog post.) Mishra's point: There is no long-term solution to the war in Afghanistan without first resolving the war over Kashmir. Yet President Obama, after attempting to include Kashmir in special envoy Richard Holbrooke's Afpak portfolio, let the India lobby scare him off. But trying to solve the Afghan quagmire without untangling Kashmir from its Pakistan-India tangles is like trying to find peace in the Middle East without untangling Palestine-Israel from its Palestinian-Israeli tangles.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars over Kashmir. It's because of the two countries' rivalry over Kashmir that Pakistan fostered Islamist militants, among the the Taliban, to use as a proxy army against India in Kashmir. It's because of Kashmir that India has undermined Pakistani influence in Afghanistan since the 1980s, and because of Kashmir that India has "poured over a billion dollars in aid since 2001" in Afghanistan, according to Mishra, "and has four consulates in addition to its embassy in Kabul; the United States, in comparison, has no consulates." It's also because of Kashmir that India continues to support secessionists in Pakistan's Balochistan province. India will do anything to keep Pakistan off-balance strategically in South Asia. Pakistan will do anything to ensure that India doesn't humiliate it, as it so frequently has in the past (see: three Indo-Pakistani wars).
Here's why all this is integral to the situation in Afghanistan. Pakistan midwifed, nursed, armed, trained and financed the Taliban in the 1990s, and, along with Saudi Arabia, was alone in the world to recognize the Taliban regime when it installed its Kabul Caliphate in 1996. Pakistan ostensibly switched sides in 2001, at the urging of the Bush administration, and began fighting the Taliban.
But not really. It has continued to support the Taliban, covertly, through the ISI, Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA. Just as critically: The Bush administration gave Pakistan $10 billion, mostly in weaponry, to buy its support. But the administration did not give Pakistan a strategic incentive to make good on abandoning the Taliban. To the contrary.
And here's where it gets complicated--where the Bush administration's short-sightedness for the sake of lucrative contracts becomes apparent, and where the consequences of that short-sightedness extend all the way to Iran's designs on nuclear weapons. The Bush administration agreed to to legitimize India's nuclear status--offensive and civil nuclear status--even though India, unlike Iran , is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (nor is Pakistan, also a nuclear power). The same Bush who, in 2004, declared that countries do not need to make their own nuclear fuel to operate their civilian nuclear programs conceded to India the authority to make its own fuel and endless reprocessing of spent fuel, with no promise--none--from India to stop making bombs. Bush did so to secure "$150 billion in commercial opportunities over the next 30 years," according to The New York Times, especially for the hamstrung U.S. nuclear-power industry. Iran watched all this with glee, seeing in it a double-standard, on America's part, that Iran could exploit (and has exploited) radiantly.
Pakistan, meanwhile, saw red. Here was the United States telling Pakistan to be its ally in the war on terror with one hand while feeding India's nuclear ambitions with the other. The lesson for Pakistan: don't trust the United States. As Mishra wrote, "western policymakers still don't fully understand that the Bush administration's decision to legitimize India's nuclear status, and to help project the country as a rising superpower, stoked an old paranoia in Pakistan."
This blind spot extends to the Obama administration, whose secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, derisively charges that Pakistan is too "obsessed" with Pakistan and should get with the American program. Maybe it should. But Pakistan's mistrust isn't without reason.
"As always," Mishra writes, "the road to stability in Pakistan and Afghanistan runs through the valley of Kashmir, and Obama's failure to even mention a likely solution to the subcontinent's primary conflict will doom his new strategy just as surely as his other decision to continue assassinating suspected militants with drone missiles."

1 comment:

  1. kashmir is a burning issue between Indai and Pakistan. it should be solve acoording to wishs of kashmiri people so that peace can be restored in this regin.
    Bashir Ahmad