Tuesday, June 04, 2002

South Asia on my Mind

Well I have returned from the Windy City all full from eating too much deep dish pizza.

While being on vacation makes it hard to have time to actually follow exactly what is happening, I tried my hardest to remain apprised of current events. Before I left however, I was able to catch William Safire’s New York Times column of May 30, 2002. I think Safire is usually a brilliant columnist, but he dropped the ball on this one. He might want to read up a little more on South Asia, or just the history of the Kashmir dispute before trying to offer some helpful policy pointers to whoever [in the policy community] reads his column.

“1. Lean harder on Pakistan to assert internal sovereignty by warring on the terrorists, not wasting manpower by posturing against India's army. Sweeten this with non-military aid and trade openings from the European Union as well as the U.S.
2. Lean on India to agree to talks with Pakistan about Kashmir after Al Qaeda is rooted out and terror attacks cease from the Pakistani side of the Line of Control that splits Kashmir.
3. Start pushing the concept of "de facto autonomy" in divided Kashmir, as most of its residents want, without upsetting the current claims of sovereignty by both India and Pakistan. Both sides will deride this as a non-starter, but the object of such a temporary solution is to non-start a war. “

First of all, there can be no quid pro quo given to the Pakistanis for doing something they said they were going to do in September 2001 and again in January 2002. It has been six month after the fact, and I think George Bush was pretty clear when he said, “You are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” It seems, for some interesting reason, that Pakistan has been able to tread the gray area in that statement. What remains unclear is what else the U.S. is willing to do other than put tremendous diplomatic pressure on the Pakistani government to stop their transgressions? As long as U.S. interests lie in Afghanistan, the U.S. will not be able to realistically play “honest broker” in mediating this dispute. It is clear however, that diplomatic pressure has indeed worked on the Indians, at least for the time being anyway. My prediction remains that if indications suggest that insurgents are still crossing the border in September, than that is when the Indians will begin a conventional war.

And on the thrid point, I highly doubt giving de-facto autonomy to Kashmir could be done without upsetting either the Indians or the Pakistanis. Besides, who would do it, the U.S., the UN? Neither India nor Pakistan wants Kashmir to be autonomous, so that, I think won't happen.

The Washington Post Gets it On South Asia

Finally, someone taking a broader, and better look at the South Asia crisis. I really enjoyed William Arkin's Dot.mil column today. I think he contextualizes the crisis very well, especially this last part, a point that I have been trying to make, but don't think that I have accomplished it this well.

"But the truth is that as the U.S. has become more and more mono-focused on its terrorism war, Pakistan's linchpin position has conferred upon it not only freedom to operate but legitimate nuclear status.
The real issue isn't nuclear war but U.S. priorities. Which is more important for America? That Pakistan is given respect and deference as the host of U.S. forces continuing to fight in Afghanistan? Or that it is host to the worst international terrorist forces in the world, forces that continue to not only grow, but seem happy to fight "over" Kashmir and take advantage of two flawed and weakened states for an even larger destructive cause?"

I also like that someone is playing down the danger of nuclear war in South Asia. Yes, India and Pakistan are composed of mostly brown skinned, primarily non-white, non-Christian people. However, they are not stupid, and do indeed have some safeguards set up.

I am also linking to a transcript of Don Rumsfeld with Washington Post discussing the South Asia Crisis.

And finally, I would like to thank both Sathish Ramakrishnan and Suman Palit for their very kind words on DESIBLOG. I am glad that some people are actually reading.


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