Friday, January 30, 2009

India’s ‘Slam-Dunk’ Looks More Like Obama’s Zone Defense and Possible Full Court Press

Today, the US State Department revealed that South Asian Envoy Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke’s mandate was pared down by eliminating intervention into the sixty-year-old struggle between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir. This must come as a surprise to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari who recently published an op-ed in Wednesday’s Washington Post expressing his optimism of having Amb. Holbrooke as President Obama’s point man on the Kashmir Issue. This optimism was for the most part due to Amb. Holbrooke’s reputation as a bare knuckles mediator know for strong arming parties into resolving violent disputes, such as the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords in Bosnia. It was reported in today’s Washington Post that the pruning of Kashmir from Amb. Holbrooke’s mandate was a “diplomatic slam-dunk” for India, greater signs of the blossoming relationship between the US and India and ultimately acquiescing to India’s claim that Kashmir must remain an “internal issue.” However, understanding the political jiu-jitsu President Obama routinely displayed on the campaign trail and recently with House and Senate Republicans, this was not a slam-dunk for India, but more like Obama instituting a zone defense, which could lead to a full court press.

There is no doubt that the cunningness Amb. Holbrooke displayed resolving and establishing a lasting, yet fragile peace in Bosnia puts him on the Mt. Rushmore of international mediators. The mandate originally presented to Amb. Holbrooke by President Obama for South Asia was just short of, if not to say down right impossible. Tasking Amb. Holbrooke with handling security issues and creating greater partnership between Afghanistan and Pakistan in their struggle against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda already presented a task far greater than the task in Bosnia. To pile on the issue of Kashmir, with it’s legacy of failed agreements, bitter resentments and involving two other parties rarely mentioned, China and the Kashmiri people themselves, Amb. Holbrooke would have reached miracle worker status deserving of sainthood if he were able to actually achieve an agreement all the while tackling issues regarding Afghanistan and Pakistan. This decision by President Obama speaks more to his ability to learn and take a more practical approach to tough issues rather than any diplomatic achievement by India.

President Obama has made it quite clear that his primary focus rests on dealing with violent extremism in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. You will get little argument from security analysts that if successful extremists groups would be dealt a blow that would make it almost impossible to recover, and sending them back to their caves to hatch small scale plans, if not full on retreat. This approach will take the full might of Amb. Holbrooke to force Pakistan and Afghanistan to work in cooperation with one another for a peaceful and sustainable outcome. However, the question remains why was Kashmir dropped from Amb. Holbrooke’s mandate when Kashmir was such a focus on the campaign trail for President Obama? This is where a zone defense can quickly become a full-court press.

The appointment of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a chill down the spines of both India and Pakistan for one single reason: the possible use of former President Bill Clinton as special envoy on the Kashmir Issue. The former President has continued to be extremely active in the region, and knows both parties very well. Moreover, it was mentioned on a few occasions of the possibility of utilizing the former President to directly engage in diplomatic efforts regarding Kashmir. It is true that the Pakistani establishment fears that the former President has somewhat of a bias leaning towards India. However, it was then President Clinton who brokered peace between India and Pakistan in 2001, preventing a possible nuclear holocaust in South Asia. Moreover, the perceived snubbing of Pakistan during the Clinton Administration stemmed from Pakistan being ruled by a President who took power via military coup, President Pervez Musharraf, as well as the discovery of the A.Q. Khan network of disseminating the blue print for nuclear weapons programs leading to the nuclearization of North Korea, the Iranian nuclear program and a hand in the now destroyed Syrian nuclear program. Prior to September 11th, there was good reason for US Government opinion to view Pakistan as a rogue state. That was then, and this is now.

Thanks in large part to the work of the Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation respectively, the former President has a fundamental understanding of the issues adversely impacting the region. At the heart of the Kashmir Issue from the India, Pakistan and China perspective is the issue of water rights and access found in the Siachen Glacier region in the Ladakh region of Kashmir and the Indus River and two of its tributaries, the Jhelum and Chenab rivers, running through the Valley region of Kashmir. The glacier region involves China, India and Pakistan, all three being nuclear states, due to the necessity of drinking water. The issue regarding the rivers involves only India and Pakistan with the dual usage of irrigation for farmland and hydroelectric power created by recent damming of the Chenab River on the Indian side of the cease-fire line.

Given former President Clintons understanding and expertise of development issues, it would come as no surprise if he were to be tapped to deal with the issue of Kashmir. Moreover, with his wife serving as Secretary of State, it would come as no surprise should the former President be tapped to tackle such an issue. It would eliminate communication issues between an envoy of this magnitude and the State Department. In addition, it would grant the former President an ability to solidify his legacy as one of the great peacemakers in the modern era. He fell short with Israel and Palestine due to incompetence of the two parties lack of political will, not of his own failure to go above and beyond his own abilities to get Israel to agree to concessions once thought of as impossible. It will take someone of this magnitude to get India to soften its stance regarding the disputed territory.

The wildcard in all of this remains the Kashmiri people themselves. Elections were recently held in Kashmir and hailed as a successful example of Indian Democracy by the Government of India. However, the elections were marred by mass strikes against the elections, the jailing of separatist leaders who continue to hold sway with the general public in the Valley region and new allegations of corruption and rigging of the election process as a whole. It must also be noted, that allegations of the rigging of elections in Kashmir is nothing new, and in fact led to the Kashmiri armed uprising in 1989 following the rigging of elections by the Indian Government in 1987; a charge long since confirmed by government officials.

The Government of India’s lack of attention, development and action regarding widespread human rights violations by the more than 500,000 Indian Troops occupying the Valley, the largest occupying force in the world, must be addressed for any resolution to be viable and sustaining. Without a doubt, Pakistan has long been notorious for a disregard of human rights and funding and training extremists to attack Indian Forces in India Administered Jammu-Kashmir, and rightfully so, but the time has come that India also acknowledge its own dysfunctional policies which continue to plague the life of the average Kashmiri. In order to achieve what many would view as an impossible task, it will take the political might and stature of a former President so respected throughout India.

President Obama has made clear his intentions of tackling the Kashmir Issue, and understands the ramifications should the sixty-year-old conflict continue to fester. Only those who didn’t follow closely his way of handling difficult issues during the campaign would consider the idea that he has placated to the Government of India’s recurring statement that Kashmir is an internal issue. By taking Kashmir off the plate of Amb. Holbrooke, he can apply his zone defense of containment and possible victory in Afghanistan and Pakistan. By appointing former President Clinton to tackle Kashmir, as was suggested during the Presidential general election campaign, he would apply a full court press.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It would have been a good idea for you to do some more research before commenting on an issue of which you clearly know very little. The Indian state of JAMMU and KASHMIR recently had free and fair elections and elected a combination of the ruling Congress Party and the National Conference. The veracity of the elections and the essential fairness has been accepted by all independent observers. Jammu and Kashmir has had several free and fair polls since India's independence. Contrast that with the part of Kashmir occupied illegally by Pakistan which has not had a single poll since the time of its occupation. When discussing the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, please note the state is made of three parts, Jammu which is a majority Hindu region, Kashmir which is majority Muslim and Ladakh which has a large proportion of Buddhists.
It is a real travesty of truth when liberals the world over shed copious tears over the so-called suffering of Kashmiris and conveniently forget that ALMOST the entire KASHMIRI HINDU PANDIT population was forced at gun point to leave their land in the space of ONE YEAR by these bloodthirsty savages who malign the name of Islam. The Pandits continue to live as refugees in their own land unable to come back because of the noxious spread of Saudi Arabian style Waha'bi Islam has ripped apart the secular ethos of the state where due a strong Sufi tradition Hindus and Muslims had lived together in complete harmony for centuries.