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Old Monday, January 26, 2009
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Default World Agenda: Kashmir - the elephant in the room

Finally there is some interest in the right direction to resolve the Kashmir issue. Thus far India's stonewalling has been detrimental to the peace and stability in the region. The past 60 years have shown that Pakistan and India are incapable of resolving this issue bilaterally which in turn continues to fester and due to spill over, creates more complexities for other regional issues and for the overall global war on terror.

I think as much as our Indian friends would disagree with this article, there are quite a lot of benefits for the region in getting over the Kashmir hump.

From Times Online
January 22, 2009
World Agenda: Kashmir - the elephant in the room
In our latest daily column, the Times' Delhi bureau chief says India must not ignore Kashmir when searching for explanations for extremism
Islamic militants of Pakistan-based Al-Badar group are seen in this September 10, 2000 file photo at a camp near the Pakistani side of disputed Kashmir.

(Zahid Hussein/Reuters)

Islamists militants pictured on the Pakistani side of the disputed territory of Kashmir
Jeremy Page

Arrogant, ham-handed, startling, impertinent these are the sort of words used here, with reason, to describe David Miliband's comments on the Mumbai attacks last week.

There is another word, though, that applies equally well: correct.

Of course it was impolitic to contradict Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, by saying that Britain does not believe the Pakistani state directed the Mumbai attacks.

As for suggesting that the root cause of such attacks is Kashmir, surely the FCO recalls India's outrage in 1997 when Robin Cook suggested mediating on that issue?

For the current Foreign Secretary of the former colonial ruler to make both these points publicly, while on Indian soil, was either deliberately provocative or incredibly naive.

Mr Miliband also managed to cause offence with his tone and body language a schoolboy error in dealing with a notoriously sensitive partner.

The fact remains, however: he was spot on.

Indian officials admit in private that there is no evidence yet of a direct link between Mumbai and the Pakistani state, even if they are sure that it played a role.

More significantly, most regional experts agree with Mr Miliband that "resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms".

For too long, Kashmir has been the "elephant in the room" in the international discourse on security in South Asia and a stain on the copybook of the world's largest democracy.

In 1948-9, the United Nations passed resolutions calling for a plebiscite in Kashmir on whether it should join India or Pakistan.

Ever since, India has refused to comply and blocked international efforts to resolve the issue, over which it has fought two of its three wars with Pakistan.

Now that both have nuclear weapons, Kashmir is a legitimate concern for the whole world, yet foreigners who bring it up are invariably shouted down.

India's media rarely challenges government policy there, while the foreign media has been understandably focused on Pakistan and Afghanistan since 9/11.

As a result, few outside the region are even aware that India still has half a million troops in Kashmir, making it one of the most heavily militarised corners of the planet.

Or that by official estimates, more than 47,000 people have been killed there since an uprising against Indian rule began in 1989 (rights groups put the toll nearer 70,000).

Or that that Kashmir's four million Muslims routinely suffer arbitrary arrest, torture and extra-judicial execution by security forces, according to most rights groups.

Last year alone, at least 42 people were killed by security forces in protests against Indian rule. By comparison, 22 people were killed in the anti-China riots in Tibet in 2008.

Kashmir's problems do not justify the Mumbai attacks.

But in trying to prevent more attacks in India and elsewhere, it is ludicrous to continue to ignore Indian policy in the region. The fact is that Kashmir is the primary motivation for most terrorists in India and Pakistan. It is also why Pakistan's spies maintain links with such people.

The real reason India is so upset is that Mr Miliband's words reflect the thinking of President Obama, who plans to appoint a special envoy on South Asia.

The idea is for this envoy to take a more holistic approach to the region, including Kashmir, to address the concerns of all the major stakeholders.

It is a good idea and Mr Obama and his allies should continue to promote it, however loudly India complains.
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