'LoC as international border the only solution'
10 August 2004
The Daily Times
Washington DC: The Line of Control in Kashmir being made an international border is the only viable solution to the dispute over the state between India and Pakistan, according to an American think tank. The American thinking on converting the LoC into the international border has been precipitating over the past six years but no one in the US government spells it out in so many words, at least openly. John H Sandrock, director of programme on international security at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, was more forthright while speaking to a visiting group of journalists from India and Pakistan here on Monday.'We all know the Line of Control is going to be the international border one day. I will say that; you don't have to say that ... It's going to happen,' he said.When Daily Times asked him if such a mechanism would not alienate the people of Kashmir further and whether LoC was the actual problem, he apologised for making a 'flippant' statement. 'The LoC is the LoC; it is the fact of life at the moment, and one needs to see how to solve those issues that surround the LoC,' he said. He added, however, that India and Pakistan has so far found it difficult to resolve these issues in their negotiations. If such a situation persisted, he warned, 'you will have a stalemate forever. And I don't think this is a situation that either India or Pakistan is interested in'. Still, Mr Sandrock thought Washington should allow the two South Asian states to iron out the differences bilaterally. 'Because you have the problems, you have the greatest interest in solving those problems ... I think the US cannot and should not assume a major role in resolving the problems that are primarily between India and Pakistan.' Of course, the US can play a useful role, he said but only if 'India and Pakistan can see a potential role for the United States ... the US should follow the invitation and see what it can do.' He supported Washington's new South Asia policy of reaching out to Pakistan and India on their own merit rather than following the hyphenated policy of previous decades. 'Better relationship with India does not mean worse relationship with Pakistan [or vice-versa].' Resolving the Siachen problem can be the first step towards conflict resolution in South Asia, he said. 'India and Pakistan must figure out the way to get the soldiers out of the Siachen Glacier' since 'it is the most miserable existence for the military on either side'. 'There has got to be a way for both sides to back away from the Siachen Glacier with some kind of guarantees,' he said. 'I don't care what they are. [But] to have troops at 20,000 feet suffering from altitude sickness and everything else is an absolute travesty.' He claimed it was beyond him why India and Pakistan could not get together to resolve this issue. For someone who has extensively travelled in the subcontinent and dealt with South Asia, this was a surprising statement because the key to the stalemate between India and Pakistan lies in the same attitude that has prevented them so far from solving even lesser problems like Siachen, Sir Creek and Wuller Barrage.C Richard Nelson, director of programme development at the Council, also agreed with Mr Sandrock that the US should stay clear of the Indo-Pak problems.'I am mainly concerned that we don't get into a situation in which we create unnecessary expectations for a US role,' he said. 'Whenever the United States gets involved in a problem, it changes the dynamics too much. I would advise my government to take a low-key, behind-the-scenes, multilateral approach to Indo-Pakistani relations. Otherwise, it can unnecessarily complicate the things and end up being counter- productive.' Mr Nelson also mentioned anti-Americanism in both countries to substantiate his claim. The Atlantic Council was previously running a programme that brought together military official from India and Pakistan to help them exchange views. The programme was discontinued but the Council is contemplating restarting it by inviting more diverse groups of people from both countries in the future.