India Braces Up For US Pressure On Kashmir

16 October 2009
Daily News & Analysis

New Delhi: After a lull of three years, Kashmir is back on the government's priority list. With Pakistan relentlessly lobbying for an international push for a resolution of its chief dispute with India, the Manmohan Singh government is shoring up its defences by refocusing its energies on a state that had been left to its own devices in recent years. Two days ago, home minister P Chidambaram was in Srinagar offering to resume the defunct dialogue with separatist groups with promises of a 'unique solution' for a unique problem. Next week, prime minister Manmohan Singh will reinforce his government's benevolent mood when he travels to the state with railway minister Mamata Banerjee and possibly Sonia Gandhi to inaugurate the Qazigund-Anantnag railway line. Before this, a string of Union ministers from Delhi descended on Srinagar, surprising the state with a renewed burst of VIP attention. And after the PM, there are plans to send senior secretaries in the Union government to Srinagar to discuss development projects. The high-energy show of interest in Kashmir follows a flurry of international activity that has rung warning bells in New Delhi. The most recent was the appointment of a special envoy for Kashmir by the Kashmir contact group of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). While the OIC has often passed resolutions at Pakistan's behest asking India to settle the Kashmir issue, it seems to have decided to put its money where its mouth is by shifting from verbal rhetoric to diplomatic action. OIC envoy, Saudi Arabian Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman, kicked off his mission with an appeal to US president Barack Obama to get India to resume talks with Pakistan on Kashmir. More worrying is a conference scheduled to be held in London on October 24 to which various Kashmiri groups have been invited. To give it a semblance of objectivity, the organisers (the United Kingdom-based All Parties Kashmir Coordination Committee) have also called representatives of Kashmiri Pandit groups. All the separatist leaders from India, including the hardliner leader of the breakway Hurriyat faction, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, are hoping to attend. While most international meets on Kashmir are an annual affair and therefore no cause for alarm, the October 24 conference is not part of the usual pattern. It is seen here as a Pakistani effort to build international opinion against India on the Kashmir issue. Former senior diplomat MK Bhadrakumar, who used to head the Pakistan desk of the foreign office, said that India should brace itself for renewed international pressure on Kashmir. 'The US will have to do something for the Pakistan army for the hits it is taking in the anti-Taliban operations along the Af-Pak border,' he said. 'The army has already lost more than 3,000 men and it will continue to take these hits only if it is assured that the US will get India to discuss Kashmir.' Analysts here believe that India is quite capable of hunkering down for a long diplomatic battle with Pakistan on this issue. The government's strategy of engaging separatist leaders in talks and pouring money into development projects in Kashmir isa pre-emptive move to block international interference. 'The government can tell the world that it is already talking to the people of Kashmir and it doesn't need any outside help to deal with an internal problem,' said Bhadrakumar.