ISI To Exploit Kashmir Unrest: Expert

19 August 2008

New Delhi: Pakistan’s spy agency ISI is sure to take advantage of the “volatile situation” in Jammu and Kashmir if India does not defuse the crisis in the state soon, a leading Indian American analyst said here yesterday. “Will the ISI try to take advantage of this volatile and potentially volcanic situation? I have no doubt they will,” Sumit Ganguly, professor of political science and director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security, Indiana University, said here. “It’s in vital interest of India to defuse the situation in Kashmir. Before long, the issue will be internationalised. As long as this pot is on boil, the capacity for mischief (on part of the ISI) will be boundless,” Ganguly said. His reference was to the surge of separatist sentiments in the Kashmir Valley in the aftermath of a row over the transfer of government land to a Hindu shrine. He was delivering the Eminent Persons’ Lecture on the “Political transition in Pakistan and future of India-Pakistan relations” at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), India’s premier think tank on security issues. The lecture, which was planned quite some time back, came only a day after the resignation of Pervez Musharraf as the president of Pakistan Monday that imparted it an added relevance to it. Ganguly argued that although Pakistan’s preoccupation with domestic problems will inhibit adventurism against India, the ruling coalition is likely to seek an external scapegoat if it feels besieged. “And what better issue than Kashmir to whip nationalistic frenzy,” he stressed. “Domestic tensions must be curbed. The sentiments of both Jammu and the Valley have to be addressed. Some semblance of normalcy has to be restored,” Ganguly said while acknowledging “a string of mistakes by the Indian state” in Kashmir over the years that has created the present crisis. Ganguly, a South Asia expert and the author of “Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947” and “The Crisis in Kashmir: Portents of War, Hopes of Peace”, underscored the increasing influence of the military-ISI axis in driving Pakistan’s foreign policy on Afghanistan, Kashmir and nuclear issues. He also envisaged growing political instability in Pakistan in the days to come which will impinge on the tempo of the peace process between the two countries. “Much will depend on to what extent Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party, and Nawaz Sharif, leader of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, can move beyond their past,” he said. “Neither of them has any experience in running a coalition. If they continue to squabble, this coalition will unravel in a year,” he said, indicating that the peace process is likely to be slowed down in the days to come. He, however, advised India to continue to work with the civilian regime in Pakistan and warned that any other course will be counter-productive.