Kashmir or Security Council?

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 jihadi extremists and preventing a war in South Asia that could go nuclear.

Riedel

The recent spate of Kinetic activities indicate growing restless of America in resolving Af Pak or should we say Pak Af.There is one consistent message emanating from the “surge” about the Afghanistan conflict: it will be won or lost in the corridors of Islamabad and not the ravines of Waziristan.

In an analysis titled A Proliferation of sticks now, it has been argued that until Islamabad, or should we say Rawalpindi, decide to end the conflict on terms favourable to it in Afghanistan: the end is nowhere in sight. As per the opinion, “The more fundamental struggle is to get the Pakistani system to come to understand that the Taliban card is a lethal joker rather than a winning trump”. Pakistan‘s obsession with marginalisingIndian influence in Afghanistan is a thorn on Obama’s side as it is the wild card Pakistan is using to black mail Obama into a initiating a negotiated settlement in Kashmir.

Frustrated over Pakistan’s lacklustre response to failed Times Square bombing, the US has warned Islamabad that it will be “unable to stop the consequences” of any terror attack, whose wires are linked to that country, as per the new book Obama’s Wars. Reports also suggest that US will respond to any Pak related attack though Pakistan has countered these reports as an attack on Pakistan’s sovereignty and outside the mandate of NATO operations.

Under pressure from declining support to the war domestically, a weary Obama, in an interview published on Tuesday, warned that neither Pakistan nor India would be better off if the United States walked out of Afghanistan. Talking to the Rolling Stone magazine, President Obama also conceded that for the US, Afghanistan had proven to be harder than Iraq. He admitted that Afghanistan had been “very hard stuff” but rejected the assumption that the United States had failed in that country.

“Go for a Kashmir solution and help bring stability to the region for a ticket to UN Security Council membership and fulfilling your big power aspirations”. That’s the broad message President Barack Obama will be bringing to New Delhi during his upcoming November visit to India, preparation for which are in full swing in Washington.

As per a report in Times of India, there is this observation from Obama as to”Why US can’t  have straightforward talks with India on why a stable Pakistan is crucial?” As per Obama, “India is moving toward a higher place in its global posture. A stable Pakistan would help.” Implicit in the rumination is the idea that settling Kashmir would mollify Pakistan, where, US officials say, hardliners are using the unresolved issue as an excuse to breed an army of terrorists aimed at bleeding India.Whether a stable Pakistan would be in Indian interest is a big question deliberated by Sumit Ganguly in a commentary on the subject.

Obama’s compulsions of some big ticket takeaways from the November visit revolve around nudging India to accept deliberations on Kashmir as central to resolving Af Pak. He is obviously desperate and at this point in time pressurised by Pakistan who is “hanging on” to the Haqqani group to further its Afghanistan agenda. Simultaneosly it has pulled out all stops to turn on the taps on India in supporting the “intifada” in Kashmir. The dual aim is to corner Obama in a double pincer for a graceful exit from Afghanistan. Obama has no logical reason in not accepting the terms, especially to buttress his domestic anti war sentiment.

The TOI article further articulates that Riedel, author of the Obama administration’s Af-Pak strategy, who has canvassed the centrality of the Kashmir issue to peace and stability in the region and other US policy makers portrayed in Woodward’s book, “Obama’s Wars” also recognize that the biggest hurdle to a settlement is a hardline Pakistani military. While the civilian leadership in Pakistan would like to embrace the deal “it is unclear if the army chief, General Kayani, is on board.” Woodward’s book shows that most top US officials, save Admiral Mike Mullen, believe “India Centric” Kayani to be a closet jihadi and a two-faced “liar” intent on perpetuating war with India.

Soft borders would form the focus of Obama’s pitch amongst other suggestions. This is a quid pro quo Obama wants both from India and Pakistan to justify centrality of Kashmir to resolving Af Pak.

As per FP, for Obama the domestic acceptability of his Af Pak strategy is critical in this election season. Good strategy is politically sustainable strategy. Anything else is unrealistic and self-defeating. And any president who did not worry about the domestic politics of his strategy would be a very poor commander in chief indeed.

India faces a hobsons choice and has to leverage its influence to serve its strategic interests. There would be a score of other quid pro quo bargaining chips like the nuclear liability bill, outsourcing, water and economy - but the critical issue would be to downplay Kashmir as a central theme to Obama’s visit.

 

As we have argued earlier, India faced with an India centric Kayani, would find it tough to steer clear of Kashmir. This, though, should be the plank and test of Indian diplomacy till Obama comes here. If the topic is raised as a precondition or central to Obama’s interests during his visit – we would have conceded irretrievable ground to Pakistan. India will have to nudge Obama to help India overcome its Pakistan problem before bringing up Kashmir.

In the meanwhile there should be No Looking Back Now on Kashmir initiative launched by the government to restore normalcy in the valley before Obama arrives. Without being hard nosed, seat at UN Security council remains secondary to India’s dispensation in Kashmir.

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About the Author

A strategy and security expert on South Asia. Research and exploratory work is aimed at authoring a series of books on what makes South Asia tick.

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