Sunday, 27 September 2020

Kashmir Imbroglio Uncle Sam’s Pep Talk

Updated: April 3, 2010 11:52 am

This book gives a detailed account of the Kashmir problem and focusses on the activities, recommendations and policy decisions involving US, the UN and the subcontinent. It refers more briefly to the efforts of private American citizens and organisations to develop formulas that might help settlement of this problem. The writer, as a US foreign service officer stationed in India and Pakistan has himself drawn experiences with regard to Kashmir.

            Since gaining Independence in 1947, India and Pakistan have clashed repeatedly, causing fears of a war, perhaps even a nuclear flashpoint. This book also gives an indepth account of the Washington’s efforts over the last thirty years to forge a settlement.

            To trace the sequence of events with regard to this problem, the writer states that as the tribal men swept aside state forces and advanced towards Srinagar, Maharaja of Kashmir made an appeal to the Government of India for help. The Government of India offered help on the condition that after getting normalcy, the question of accession of state shall be decided by reference to the people. Later, as the negotiations between the two countries failed to move ahead, the Government of India requested the UN Security Council to help in the settlement of this problem. The UN after a long debate hammered out a resolution which called on India and Pakistan to agree to a ceasefire and were asked to consult each other for the conditions of a plebiscite. Later, the UNCIP adopted another resolution which outlined the plebiscite process. Both India and Pakistan accepted the resolution, of course with some minor reservations and agreed for a ceasefire. Later, UNCIP failed to make any significant progress in implementing these resolutions.

            Keeping a track of the events of involvement of US in the solution of this problem, the writer in the second chapter, refers to the efforts of the Eisenhower administration which decided to send a private American citizen to South Asia to explore the alternative proposals with India and Pakistan for the solution of this problem. At a later stage, Prime Minister Nehru agreed that Kashmir dispute should be settled according to the wishes of the people, to be ascertained by a plebiscite. Afterwards, America’s efforts considering Pakistan a cold war ally deeply angered India and led Nehru to demand withdrawal of American Military Officers from the UN Observer Force that monitored the ceasefire line in Kashmir. But Nehru’s visit to America in 1956 initiated a more positive phase in the Indo-US relations. American President recognised India’s strategic significance to the US and accepted India’s non-alignment foreign policy.

            But later, because of Pakistan’s alignment with US and the US vote against India at the UN had a damaging effect on the Indo-US relations. The White House intervention increased substantially when Kennedy became the President. After India’s defeat in the Sino-Indian war, US with the help of Britain again took initiative to promote negotiations between India and Pakistan, but could not succeed in their efforts. After the failure of the sustained efforts of Kennedy administration to promote Kashmir settlement, Washington lost its appetite for intervention

            Later, the escalation of fighting into a full war between India and Pakistan created a firestorm on the Capitol Hill. American policymakers realised that the crisis would have much broader implications for US interests. But the American administration continued to look to the UN as the primary instrument to bring an end to fighting. After the UN sponsored ceasefire was accepted by India and Pakistan, the US administration further reduced its interest in the Kashmir problem. After the failure of the Kennedy administration’s sustained efforts, the American relations with India continued downhill from the high point they had reached in late 1962 when Washington had come to New Delhi’s rescue in the Sino-Indian war.

            But in spite of all this, after a period of more than two decades, United States had to pay a serious attention to the Kashmir problem because of the outbreak of widespread insurgency in the Kashmir valley abetted by Pakistan. As early as 1969, Nixon administration had to abandon the Washington’s reluctance to politically involve itself in the Indian affairs. The Simla agreement enabled India to remove the role of UN as an actor in the Kashmir problem. By nineties, American officials continued to take interest in the Kashmir affairs.

            It was felt that a combination of draconian Indian measures to suppress the internal rebellion and Pakistan’s cross-border efforts to abet it would prompt a confrontation, which could escalate into a South-Asian nuclear war. Pakistan’s intelligence Agency ISI’s involvement added greater seriousness to the problem. Washington also felt concerned over the deteriorating human rights situation in the valley. The insurgency led Washington to develop its position on the key elements of the Kashmir problem in greater detail. Non-government American orgnisations also sponsored track two dialogue to bring influential private individuals togather.

            Two major incidents in the last years of the nineties further heightened Washington’s apprehensions about the danger the Kashmir dispute posed for American interests in South Asia and beyond. nuclear tests by India and Pakistan in the later nineties and the armed conflict in Kargil are the two alarming happenings that became the cause of concern for the USA. Following the nuclear tests by India , Washington took the lead in rallying international support to punish New Delhi by imposing sections and other measures that could damage Indian economic and security interests. After Pakistan tested, the American administration launched a diplomatic campaign on international forums to induce the two countries to accept specific measures to head-off a nuclear armed race in the sub-continent.

            It tried to encourage the two countries to find mutually acceptable solution to its problems. US feared that Kargil war could have had disastrous effects including a possible nuclear conflict. After the failure of Pakistan in Kargil operation, its prime minister sought the intervention of the US. At Clinton’s instance, Pak Prime Minister accepted an American draft press statement that said that he had agreed to take concrete steps immediately for the restoration of the Line of Control and a ceasefire after that. US asked both the countries to respect line of control, reject violence and restore their dialogue. Later, an effort was made to normalise the relations between the countries by the Vajpayee government, but due to its defeat in the elections, normalising process became slow and disappointing.

            During the Clinton and Bush regimes American policymakers and commentators generally agreed that Washington should be prepared to facilitate efforts by India and Pakistan to resolve the crisis . The writer, in the end, is of the view that quiet diplomacy is required. Washington needs to look for ways to persuade India to accept an agreement that does not meet all its demands and involve genuine concessions on its part.

By Prof KD Sharma

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