Archive for the ‘India’ Category

India’s Rise and Kashmir

March 5, 2009
Source: BBC
Source: BBC


Is the conflict over Kashmir hindering India’s rise?  Is an unstable Pakistan, with its religious, regional and political cleavages, likewise a threat to India’s rise?  Is American foreign policy exacerbating tensions in South Asia with its concentration on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan?

In The New Yorker ’s March 2 edition, Steve Coll addresses these important questions.  Coll discusses a “back channel” that exists over Kashmir, whereby India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed foes, themselves have drawn up outlines of a solution to one of Samuel Huntington’s “civilizational fault line” conflicts.  Given such direct negotiations, perhaps India and Pakistan are further along in solving their fault line conflict than Israel and the Palestinians, who rely on third party mediation, are in solving theirs. Furthermore, unlike the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kashmir does not involve an existential threat to either India or Pakistan.

When he was in power, President Musharraf controlled Pakistan’s armed forces, including the intelligence services, long-engaged in mischief-making through their support of Islamist guerrilla groups operating in Kashmir.  Bush bashers faulted W for coddling this dictator in his effort to get Pakistani cooperation in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  As a result, little pressure was applied on Pakistan regarding Kashmir.  Rooting out Al Qaeda and the Taliban along the Afghan border is a top priority for Obama, so it seems U.S. pressure over Kashmir will continue to take a back seat.  However, don’t rule out tough guy Richard Holbrooke just yet.

What is becoming clear is that, once again, Pakistan’s democracy is proving too weak to handle its myriad problems.  President  Zardari, in power since September 2008, is having trouble standing up not only to militants along the Afghan border, but also to militants within the Pakistani military, which Musharraf controlled.  While Musharraf himself came to power nearly ten years ago by sowing discord in Kashmir, he came to realize that Pakistan’s survival was more at risk from Islamists than from India, especially after 9/11.  Paranoia over India continues to effervesce within the Pakistani defense establishment, a fact obscured during the Musharraf dictatorship.  India for its part understands that its heady rise could be threatened by any conflict with its arch foe.  Further, the disintegration of Pakistan, caused by either war with India or civil war with the Islamists, is not in the interests of India.   Hence, there are mutual interests in resolving the conflict over Kashmir.   

As for American foreign policy, the Obama administration should not lose sight of the strategic importance of ensuring that the world’s rising powers succeed as peaceful democracies with strong links to the global capitalist system.  Anchoring Brazil, Russia, China, and of course, India in Western institutions represents America’s best chance of success within an emerging multi-polar world.  Surely, any help offered toward resolving India’s quarrel with Pakistan would serve this overriding strategic objective and should be at the top of the list of American priorities.