Has India succeeded in reducing Holbrookes role?

25 January 2009
The News International
Mariana Baabar

Islamabad: Aggressive lobbying by New Delhi before President Barrack Hussein Obama took oath of office has stalled for the time being the appointment of an envoy for Kashmir. But for how long? The Indian foreign secretarys reported nervousness before Obama took over and Washingtons reference to South Asia as one of the hotspots was very much on the minds of the Indian lobbyists as they worked hard at different levels to ensure that the US Special Envoy, Richard Holbrooke, would only need Pakistani and Afghan visas. Even former Indian ambassador to the US, Naresh Chandra, was reported as saying, His (Obamas) general policy ideas are good for India. But when you go from the general to the specifics, the bureaucrats take over. And that can be cause of worry. The Indian media reports point to the fact that weeks before January 20, a highly respected Indo-US experts group met in Washington. Consisting of former diplomats, bureaucrats, industrialists and policy planners, the group identified four major potential areas of concern between the two sides, stemming from the likely changes in the US administrations policies. While testing the waters, the American participants in fact inquired from their Indian counterparts whether India would grant a visa if Obama were to be appointed special envoy for South Asia. They were told, Yes, he will be granted a visa but not access to meet the Indian leaders. Ambassador Khalid Mehmood told The News, This is the power of persuasion behind closed doors. He says thanks to active lobbying by think tanks and commentators as well as Americans and Europeans of Indian descent, New Delhi raised it at the diplomatic level and at the government level when the Indian foreign secretary visited Washington. Actually, I find it quite puzzling that quite recently Obama had spoken of a number of times of the linkage between Afghanistan-Pakistan-India-Kashmir-Iran as his priorities. Because only if you have a stable Afghanistan that you can hope for peace in Pakistan. For a peaceful Pakistan, you need peace on its eastern borders. As far as Kashmir is concerned, it was David Miliband who spoke for us when he said that if you solve Kashmir then you deny extremists call to arms. He says the problem inside Afghanistan cannot be solved without India which, according to the New York Times, has a massive non-transparent presence there while interfering in the Fata region and Balochistan. When asked if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could have done more to ensure that US focus did not drift from Kashmir such as matching the excellent lobbying by New Delhi, Khalid Mehmood replied, The fault is not at the Foreign Office. They only wait for policy directives from the political leaders before they can move.