‘US must help resolve Kashmir issue’
GK MONITORING DESK
Srinagar, Nov 14: A new book by a former US diplomat calls for an effective role by the US in resolving the Kashmir issue.
“I believe that the Obama administration ought to look for opportunities to play a helpful role on Kashmir,“ says Howard B Schaffer author of ‘The Limits of Influence: America’s Role in Kashmir.’ The book has been published by the influential US think-tank, the Brookings Institution. ought “What’s important is that the Obama administration has to be on the look-out for opportunities, and whatever role it does play will have to be very low-key,” says Schaffer.
“I also think - and this is very important - that the basic outline of a settlement on Kashmir now seems in view,” he said.
Schaffer, currently deputy director and director of studies of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University’s Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service, is a 36-year veteran of the US Foreign Service and has served as ambassador to Bangladesh (1984 to 1987), and as political counsellor in India (1977 to 1979) and Pakistan (1974 to 1977).
According to the author, ‘The Limits of US influence’ spell out what America’s role has been including that in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s when the US really sought to project it towards a development of a settlement in Kashmir. But it was limited and unsuccessful.
Later, US efforts were focused not on developing a framework for settlement on Kashmir - as they had been under Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy - but rather towards what you could call crisis management. “That is, we tried to calm down the situation when developments connected with Kashmir led the two parties into a critical confrontation,” said Schaffer.
According to Schaffer, the elements of the Kashmir settlement as spelled out in his book include: One is that the ceasefire line or the Line of Control (LoC) should become the international boundary, with minor adjustments perhaps, acceptable to the two sides. Secondly, that there be a considerable degree of autonomy for both sides of Kashmir. And third, that there be free movement or easy movement of goods and people from one side of the divided state to the other. “What you need to do is to fill in the details, to flesh out the settlement, which will also have to include a considerable degree of demilitarisation on both sides of Kashmir. And finally, I would like to see the development of some All Kashmir institutions, which can deal with non-controversial issues, such as say, tourism or electric power generation.”
Obama, according to Schaffer, should proceed on Kashmir the way he told Joe Klein of Time magazine during the campaign trail. “Sure, he (Obama) makes some good arguments as to why India should want to be rid of this problem to focus on development, and why Pakistan should want to be rid of it in order to focus on the problems on the Afghanistan side. And that’s the way Obama should proceed on the Kashmir issue,” he said.
A settlement on Kashmir, according to Schaffer could be worked out only if there are strong governments in both countries (India and Pakistan). “And when the two countries come closer to a settlement, it is at the point, I think, that the United States might - and I stress might - be of some help in getting the two sides across that elusive finish line on Kashmir they’ve never been able to cross on their own.”
According to Schaffer there would be greater concessions to be made by Pakistan than by India, which after all will keep the Kashmir valley - which has always been the crux of the issue. Nonetheless, there will be some concessions that India would have to make - on the autonomy issue for example.
Schaffer considers independence for Kashmir as unworkable, unthinkable, an idea that, according to him, will never be accepted by any Indian government no matter how strong. “I have said in the book, and I believe there are many Indian commentators who agree with me, that if they had a choice, the Muslims of the Kashmir valley would vote in favour of independence. But they are not going to have that choice.”
According to Schaffer, during his visits to India, he had talked to senior Indian officials about this call on Musharraf’s self-government proposal, “and the answer we got from some of them was yes, self-government is fine - all Indian states enjoy self-government, so why would we object to Kashmir having similar self-government?”
“But that, of course, is not what I see as the basis for a settlement. There would have to be a much greater degree of autonomy - and this would apply both to Indian and the Pakistani side - than is afforded to Indian states. And to make the settlement acceptable, you would have to develop ironclad guarantees that this autonomy will not erode over time. You have to do that because the experience in Kashmir suggests that Indian governments can slowly erode that autonomy. So, such guarantees have to be worked out.”
Lastupdate on : Sat, 14 Nov 2009 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 14 Nov 2009 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 15 Nov 2009 00:00:00 IST
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