US urged to intervene for Kashmir settlement
10 May 2007
Washington DC: The United States needs to work with India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue because it was this dispute that led Pakistan into the jihadist struggle, says a US scholar who has advised three US presidents on national security affairs. “The time is ripe for the United States to quietly but at a senior level work to try to help India and Pakistan resolve their fundamental differences over Kashmir,” says Bruce Riedel, who spent three decades with the CIA and also was a deputy assistant secretary of defence for South Asia before joining the National Security Council at the White House. “I think we also have to try to look at the underlying core reason why Pakistan got into the jihadist struggle, and that is the Kashmir movement,” he told a recent seminar at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Centre. “I think we ought to look at ways to help Pakistan get out of the Kashmir conundrum. And I think the timing on this one is actually quite good.” Mr Riedel said that India and Pakistan now had the best dialogue they’ve had in the last 20 years. “The US relationship with India is stronger today than it has probably been at any time since the Indo-Chinese war in 1962. And our relationship with Pakistan is better than it has been in a long time.” Mr Riedel advocated a “carrots and sticks” policy for persuading Pakistan to give up the jihadist option. “It won’t be easy. There’s no guarantee of success, but until we break the nexus between Pakistan and jihadism, I don’t think we’re going to defeat Al Qaeda,” he said. Mr Riedel disagreed with some scholars who suggested invading Pakistan to end the jihadist culture. “I think that would be a strategic mistake of enormous proportions. I think we need a more sophisticated and nuanced strategy of working with Pakistan. And working with Pakistan I think is the key here,” he said. He urged the US administration to “make it very clear to President Musharraf and the ISI and the Pakistani officer corps” that Washington “will not tolerate selective counterterrorism.” Mr Riedel claimed that the Taliban had benefited enormously from a safe haven in Pakistan and have had long and well-established ties with the ISI, and with the Pakistan army.“While these were putatively broken by Gen Musharraf after 9-11, the ties between the Taliban and various militant Pakistani and Kashmiri organisations remain very much intact,” he added. The ties between the Taliban and Kashmiri groups, he said, had developed during the 1990s and were “most dramatically illustrated” during the December, 1999 hijacking of Indian Air flight 814 from Kathmandu to Kandahar, “when Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Kashmiris and ISI all collaborated together.” The Afghan government, he said, suggests that the ISI still actively assists the Taliban and that Mullah Omar spends most of his time in Quetta. Mr Riedel, however, noted that President Musharraf calls “this a lie” and Mullah Omar also has consistently denied any official Pakistani assistance and calls Islamabad a ‘traitor.’ “Where the truth lies in all of this is particularly hard to come to know, but there is no doubt that the Taliban uses and has used Pakistani territory to regroup and has joined assistance from fellow travelers in Pakistan,” he said. Mr Riedel claimed that Al Qaeda had increasingly used Pakistan as a fertile recruiting ground to penetrate the large Pakistani and Bengali expatriate population in the United Kingdom for operations against the West. “What is increasingly apparent about all these plots is that while they used Pakistani diaspora foot soldiers, the planning, the organisation, the coordination, came from Al Qaeda's core,” he added. Pakistan, he said, was the single most important and the single hardest part of the war against Al Qaeda.