Brookings Scholars and Kashmir
Kashmir for past three years has not been grabbing the international headlines but that never suggests it is in a ‘sleep-mode’. Since 1947, it has been making banner headlines across the globe at regular intervals. In the recent past for three summers 2008, 2009 and 2010 it remained in the headlines for months together, caused hundreds of editorials, articles and columns. Many important newspapers compared the massive protests to Palestinian intifidia. A New York Times writer Lydia Polygreen wrote about 2010 protests: ‘an intifada-like popular revolt against the Indian military presence that includes not just stone-throwing young men but their sisters, mothers, uncles and grandparents.’
Notwithstanding Kashmir not talked about in the international or India-Pakistan press for past three years in details, but for its geo-strategic importance it continues to be cause of concern to the think tanks and scholars in the world. For three important nuclear powers of Asia China, India and Pakistan laying their claim over Kashmir it has not only become a nuclear flashpoint in the region but a threat to overall world security. The worrisome situation is that the three countries are always in a confrontational mood.
In India and Pakistan, Kashmir is not that important subject as it is for many European and American think tanks and strategic institutions. For scholars, researchers and experts at the Brookings, premier American think tank working on Asia Pacific and South Asia, Kashmir not only continues to be an important subject but they see it as a key to peace in South Asia. Two of the Brookings senior fellows Stephen Philip Cohen and Bruce Riedel have been working on India, Pakistan and Kashmir for a long time. Stephen P. Cohen, former Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois and author of ‘The Idea of Pakistan has published his new book “Shooting for a Century- the India Pakistan Conundrum.” This book is analysis of diplomatic and political relations between India and Pakistan during past over six decades.
On 23 May 2013, at the time of launch of the book, Cohen said that he was ‘skeptical’ about many seeing the recent elections in Pakistan that brought a democratic government into power and forthcoming elections in India setting into motion a process of normalization of relations between the two countries. The reason for his disbelief in peace process making any progress is attitude of military in both the countries, economic and ideological disparities and above lack of will to resolve the Kashmir dispute. He sees India and Pakistan relations ‘having reached hurting stalemate that strongly resembles the cold war. Cohen believing that the ‘normalization of relations between India and Pakistan’ was ‘most vital’ to the interests of the United States is critical of the Obama administration’s approach for it having ‘failed to develop a South Asia Policy have encompassed both India-Pakistan relations including Kashmir and the grinding war in Afghanistan.’ In a way he subtly finds fault in Obama reneging his commitments made about Kashmir during election campaign of first term and dropping work Kashmir from the brief Richard Holbrooke and subsequent special envoys to Afghanistan and Pakistan. (I will be reviewing this book in detail in my future column).
Despite persistent dissent of the political leadership in New Delhi world sees Kashmir dispute as nuclear flashpoint and threat to peace in South Asia. In his new book “Avoiding Armageddon – America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back” Bruce Riedel very candidly suggests that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute is the way out – perhaps the only way out for bringing peace and prosperity in India and Pakistan. He writes, "More than anything else, a Kashmir deal would set the stage for a different era in the sub-continent and for more productive interaction between the international community and Pakistan. It could set the stage for a genuine rapprochement between India and Pakistan and nurture trade and economic interaction, which could transform the subcontinent for the better.”
The former CIA officer and senior advisor to the last four U.S. presidents on South Asia and the Middle East, is not seen as Pakistan admirer. Nevertheless, recognizing importance of Pakistan he holds the view that both India and Pakistan are very important nations whose future will have a great impact on that of the United States. In his preface to the book he writes, “Pak-istan is a ris¬ing power in its own right, a fact too often lost on those daz¬zled by India’s rise next door. If Pak¬istan were sit¬u¬at¬ed any¬where but next to India, it would be rec¬og¬nized as a power at least as in¬flu¬en¬tial today as Turkey, Brazil, or In¬done¬sia. In fact, with its nu¬cle¬ar ar¬se¬nal, the fastest grow¬ing in the world, it is of great im¬por¬tance”.
Like Stephen Cohen, he too wants President Obama to play a proactive role in his second term for the resolution of Kashmir dispute. Moreover, he calls upon him “to back a peace offensive to resolve South Asia’s unfinished business in Kashmir.” Despite, India having “best ever relations” and Pakistan’s relation with Washington “bad as ever can be” , it is heartening to note that most influential scholars, researchers and experts in the Brookings see resolution of the Kashmir dispute as the only guarantee for peace in South Asia.
But , where do I find fault with their studies are their proposal for resolution of the dispute- which are mostly in contravention with the fundamental rights of thirteen million people of Jammu and Kashmir. Like Howard Schaffer and few other American writers, Bruce Riedel also is stuck up in the four-point formula of former Pakistan President, General Musharraf. Seeing solution of Kashmir in making the LOC a permanent conventional border but porous he too forgets that ‘the cause of dispute could not be its resolution’.
I do not blame the Brookings scholars for not looking at the Kashmir dispute in its historical perspective – as problem of denial of rights to the people but from the perspective United States interests in the region. The fault for the so-called Musharraf formula having emerged as new gospel for resolution lies with divided, and fragmented Kashmir leadershs that have subscribed to the idea and has so far failed to register their presence internationally as third party to the dispute.