Tinderbox’ Called Kashmir

It is a thinking that is now gaining strength with most of the experts in the United States and outside that the resolution of the Kashmir ‘dispute’ is pivotal to peace, stability and security of the South Asian region.

   “Kashmir was heating up as another battlefield”, it may be a loud thinking by Bruce Riedel author of, Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America and Future of Global Jihad” and a former long-time CIA officer, presently a senior fellow in the Saban Centre at the Brookings Institution in his article in New York Times that was published on the eve of President Barrack Obama’s visit to India raised some pertinent points:

• The new uprising in the Kashmiri capital of Srinagar makes it imperative to get back to the back channel and finish the talks.
• For the U.S., reducing and resolving the India-Pakistan Cold War before it goes hot is critical to stability in South Asia, isolating the   extremists and preventing a war in South Asia that could go nuclear. But India is understandably averse to American meddling in its internal affairs. President Obama learned that in the transition, when he briefly floated the idea of an American special envoy for Kashmir and he got a firestorm of Indian resistance.

• The new Kashmiri intifada has put the issue back on the front burner. A deal is good for America, India, Pakistan, and especially the Kashmiris, who have suffered enough.

Notwithstanding having become a bête noire for Pakistan intelligentsia for his recent book on Pakistan; the points raised by Riedel are not isolated ones but there seems a global accord amongst experts and think tanks on:

The non-resolution of Kashmir dispute   having   brought peace in South Asian region to a precipice. It is a very dangerous situation that can have devastating consequences than roil in the Middle East on the world already reeling under an economic depression.  New York Times in its editorial titled “Pakistan’s Nuclear Folly” published on past Monday had very tersely identified these dangers and urged Obama Administration to quietly help India and Pakistan resolve their differences over Afghanistan and Kashmir, saying such a move would be the “biggest game-changer” in the region facing nuclear arms buildup.
‘There is a lot’ it has observed that ‘the Obama administration can do quietly to press the countries to work to settle differences over Afghanistan and the disputed region of Kashmir. The concern over danger of an accidental nuclear war over Kashmir as expressed  by the Times in its editorial and impressing upon  Washington   to urge the two militaries to start talking, and urge the two governments to begin exploring ways to lessen  these dangers is also dominant theme in a study conducted by Laura Schuurmans an Indonesian scholar and published in December 2010 under title Kashmir: Paradise on Earth or a Nuclear Flashpoint. Looking at nuclearization of South Asia as one of the ‘dangerous developments since wars have been fought over Kashmir between India-Pakistan and India-China’ She writes, “With the Kashmir issue at its core it is not only in the interest of three nuclear powers who lay their claims on Kashmir to settle the dispute through peaceful means, it is also in the interest of the overall world security’.

The debate over dangers that non-resolution of Kashmir problem poses to global peace is not confined to the media and scholars interested in South Asia and Nuclearization but it has also been cause of concern to many strategic and military think tanks in the world. The primacy that the resolution of Kashmir problem has gained for the dangers it is posing was obvious in the third conference on Kashmir organized by one of the oldest defence think tanks not only in Britain but also in the world the Royal Institute of Strategic and Defence Studies (RUSI) in the last week of January 2011. How deeply the global community recognizes the dangers that Kashmir problem is posing to global peace was obvious during deliberation in the third session titled ‘The Kashmir Dispute and South Asian Regional Security.  The session was chaired by an eminent South Asian expert and author of Bhutto: Trial and Execution,   Kashmir in the Cross Fire, Kashmir in Conflict and a couple of books on Afghanistan, Victoria Schofield. Besides eminent internationally acclaimed Defence experts and strategist the participants in the session were   Richard Bonney Professor Emeritus and Defence Expert,  Dr. Robert Bradnock fellow of Chatham House, Jonthan S Paris, security specialist and Senior Fellow with Atlantic council of the United States South Asia Centre, Alexander Neil, Director RUSI, Maj General A.K. Mehta (Retd) and over a hundred experts  which included the Rt. Hon’ble Bob Ainsworth, Former Defence Minister of UK, Dr. James, Institute of Common Wealth Studies, Mr. Edmond Freeman, Commander Ingino Harmanscu from Embassy of Romania, Mrs. Sarah Lampart Policy Planner, Air Commodore Ashok Lal, Indian High Commission Mr. Asif Durrani Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan, Commodore Imran Syed of High Commission of Pakistan, Mr. Jonthan Cohen Conciliation Resources, UK, Anna Rudcock, and Col. Robert Wagner, Embassy of Czech. What was significant was not only large presence of some young Kashmiri scholars and students reading in various British Universities in the conference but the points raised some of them that included  by Dr. Rizwani Abbasi and Mehboob Makdoomi.

It was Barrister Abdul Majid Tramboo a Kashmir born lawyer working for International Council for Human Rights who set tone for this session by highlighting catastrophic implications of the non-resolution of the sixty three year old problem by two South-Asian key players and nuclear powers. “India has a population of around one billion people, Pakistan around three hundred million and China around 1.2 billion”, he remarked, “I argue that the tinderbox relationship between India and Pakistan is most likely to go nuclear of any inter-state relationship on the planet. This catastrophic scenario would potentially draw China into the conflict; that conflict would then encompass three nuclear nations that would account for over one third population of the world.”

How Security of South Asia was hinged on the resolution of the Kashmir dispute was the main focus of this session.  The panelist in this session focused on how ‘a nuclear war for past many years has been knocking at the door of the region and how rising extremism and strained Sino-Indian relation over Kashmir were pushing the region into a neo-cold war situation and menacingly contributing to the fragility of the situation in the region.’  The panelists in this session raised lots of question about the lopsided approach of Obama Administration towards resolution of this dispute by deleting K-factor from its South-Asian Policy.  In this session emphasis was laid on Clinton Administration for understanding  that ‘the long-standing dispute over Kashmir was one part of a wider regional dynamic that had direct implications for Washington’s ability to support a stable Afghan state and to address the threat posed by extremist groups in South Asia. And “Indo-Pak tensions are especially dangerous because they had brought two nuclear states toe-to-toe; they distract Islamabad from the urgent task of combating terrorists and extremist on its own soil.”

Though skepticism about US role for resolution more particularly for appointment of Marc Grossman vice Chairman of the Cohen Brook as Holbrook’s successor loomed large in the second session of the RUSI conference yet there was belief that for Obama administration having cordial relations with both the countries was most suited to play a proactive role for encouraging the two countries to for Kashmir problem in broader interest of Security in South Asia.

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