Kashmir Unrest India’s Internal Issue, Says Obama Administration24 September 2010
The Indian Express
New Delhi: As Jammu and Kashmir continues to draw international attention, the Obama Administration has said it has no intention to inject itself into the latest round of arguments between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. “Our position has been consistent for many years. We regret the loss of lives in the current unrest and view it as an internal issue of India”, Under Secretary of State William Burns told The Indian Express here. “We welcome the efforts of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who has courageously sought to improve relations with Pakistan”, Burns said in an exclusive conversation. “The pace, scope and character of the dialogue is for India and Pakistan to define.” Burns, the principal US interlocutor with India in recent years, has overseen the implementation of the civil nuclear initiative and is currently negotiating the substance of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India in November. While the administration’s position on Kashmir and the Indo-Pak dialogue are clear-cut, there is no denying the pressure from Pakistan and its friends in Washington who are urging Obama to express greater concern on the current situation in Kashmir and take a more proactive approach on the Indo-Pak dialogue. The most comprehensive case for US diplomatic activism in Kashmir has come from Steve Coll, president of the New America Foundation here. Writing in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books, Coll has urged the Obama Administration to “rediscover the sense of urgency Kashmir unrest India’s internal issue, says Obama Administration and international leadership” that characterised US “engagement with Kashmir in the 1950s”. Coll argues that resolving the Kashmir question might be critical for preventing the return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan, defeating the extremists on the rise in Pakistan, and ending decades of Pakistan Army’s promotion of militancy in the region. “The only way to gradually reduce ISI’s influence within the Pakistani establishment and to strengthen more progressive civilian leaders is to pursue a broader normalisation” of Indo-Pak ties. “That in turn will require a durable settlement in Kashmir.” American “silence and indirectness about the conflict is no longer workable”, Coll concludes. But many analysts say US interests in India are today much broader than the question of Kashmir and Indo-Pak relations. That Obama is not visiting Pakistan on this tour, analysts add, underscores the fact that Indo-US ties are no longer a hostage to the relations of either nation with Islamabad. After he won the presidential elections at the end of 2008, Obama appeared quite keen to promote the Indo-Pak peace process as part of his effort to recast US strategy towards the war in Afghanistan. He, however, quickly recognised that US diplomatic activism in Kashmir might generate fierce resistance in India and undermine the peace process.