US has a role to act as facilitator on Kashmir issue
11 May 2000
Islamabad: The United States can play the role of a facilitator in the lingering dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, a leading US expert on South Asian affairs said here Friday. ''The United States has a role to play as a facilitator rather than mediator towards the settlement of Kashmir dispute,'' Michael Krepon, the president of Henry L Stimson Centre, said at a discussion on ''Nuclear South Asia.'' The event was organised by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI). Krepon cited the role of the United States as a facilitator in the Middle East and Northern Ireland crises. He said Washington had engaged in an effective manner in these conflicts when two prior conditions were met. First, he said, the United States was accepted by the two parties to act as a facilitator and, second, both parties engaged directly where the United States could provide value-added facilitation. ''I never said that this issue should be resolved bilaterally between Pakistan and India,'' said the US expert whose area of interest includes the phased reduction and elimination of weapons of mass destruction and promotion of reconciliation, particularly in South Asia. He was of the view that the policies of Pakistan and India towards one another and towards Kashmir were inconsistent with their interests in nuclear risk reduction. Krepon cited several factors that contribute towards the nuclear risk reduction between the United States and the former Soviet Union during the cold war. For instance, he said the United States and Soviet Union had agreed to several measures to avoid serious military confrontation, agreement on exchange of nuclear-related data, existence of reliable lines of communication between the political and military leaders and building of trust and confidence. Dr Shireen Mazari, editor of ''The Pulse'' weekly, in her arguments said that several factors pointed out by the American expert in the US-Soviet context were not valid in the case of Pakistan and India. She said both major powers of cold war had accepted the division of Europe at the end of the Second World War and there was no indigenous struggle going on in Europe at that time. ''Here the situation is totally different. The people of Kashmir are waging a freedom movement.'' ''The first condition for the nuclear restraint must be moved towards the resolution of the most sensitive conflict and that is Kashmir,'' she remarked. Krepon said he did not say that Pakistan and India in South Asia resembled cold war confrontation. ''I understand that Pakistan and India are not the United States and Soviet Union.'' ''On Kashmir, I think as the things are going, India and Pakistan will fight to the last. It is a dreadful situation.'' He admitted that the Indian government ''has totally botched up things there. I don''t know whether they can recapture the hearts and minds there (in Kashmir)''. Brig Shaukat Qadir, of IPRI, in his closing remarks, said both Pakistan and India are sane people who ''don''t want nuclear war.'' Citing the works of several US defence analysts, Brig Qadir said there are some 15 to 25 instances in which the United States has dropped nuclear weapons on their own territory by accident. ''But they did not go off. We need that divine intervention in case we go for deployment of these weapons.''