April 2001 News

Bush administration hosts major Kashmir meet

29 April 2001
The Asian Age
Aziz Haniffa

Washington DC: The Bush administration has quietly played host to a major conference on Kashmir in what is seen as an attempt to infuse some “new think” into ways of resolving what, it believes, is a potential flashpoint for an India-Pakistan nuclear confrontation. The conference featured some of the leading academics and policy analysts on the subcontinent from the US, India and Pakistan. It was hosted by the US department of state’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research with support from the Policy Planning Bureau. It was off-the-record and no media were invited, and participants scrupulously eschewed letting in on what was discussed. Senior officials were circumspect when asked if the conference was an indication that the new administration has taken a proactive role on Kashmir. It was significant that not only was the meet sponsored by the administration, but it flew in many of the participants from India and England and from around the US. “I think it's just an opportunity to bring out the ideas on Kashmir again and look and see if there is any new thinking. Get some discussion going and so on,” an official said. The official asserted, “It's not a starting point for a new policy. It's just to expose ourselves to the most recent thinking on Kashmir.” Another official said the rationale behind the conference was “to think out of the box. To let the new people in the administration know what is the issue. To try to think afresh. That was the basic idea.” The conference was moderated by Walter Anderson, head of the South Asia Division of the I&R, and Steve Ghitelman, also from the same bureau. It was opened and closed with remarks by former US ambassador to India Frank Wisner, currently a vice-president with the American International Group — the world's largest insurance conglomerate. The conference comprised four panel discussions — India and Pakistani Approaches and Policies; The View from Kashmir; The United States and International Facilitation; and Looking Ahead: Alternative Scenarios. The panel discussion on India and Pakistani Approaches and Policies featured Amitabh Mattoo of the Jawaharlal Nehru University; M. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, Oxford University, and former US ambassador to Bangladesh Howard Schaffer, now with Georgetown University. The key questions this panel discussed included: Will India be able to move toward a settlement of Kashmir without engaging Pakistan? In the meantime, what price will India pay to exclude Pakistan from any dialogue it initiates with disaffected Kashmiris? In what ways will a solution advance Pakistani or Indian interests? In what ways does the current impasse — or one very much like it —advance the interests of key interest groups in both countries? Have India or Pakistan's views on an international role in the Kashmir dispute changed since the Kargil incursion of 1999? Are there any signs that either side is prepared to go beyond previously stated positions? The second panel on The View from Kashmir featured Joseph Schwartzberg of the University of Minnesota; Farooq Kathwari, CEO of Ethan Allen and sponsor and chief financier of the Kashmir Study Group; Paula Newberg of the United Nations Foundation. This panel too was moderated by Ghitelman. It explored the questions of how do the various Kashmir groups see themselves? As a nation? Ethnic groups? As communal-sectarian groups? What kind of a Kashmir settlement do its different groups (Kashmiri Muslim, Pandit, Dogra, Sikh and Buddhist) envision? How do Kashmiri Muslims view the intervention of non-Kashmiri Muslims in the armed struggle against India? What are the prospects for unity among the Kashmiri political and insurgent groups? How has the human and civil rights situation shaped the view of the Kashmiris? The third panel on the United States and International Facilitation comprised Mohammed Ayoob, Michigan State University; Robert Wirsing, Asia-Pacific Centre; Sumit Ganguly, University of Texas at Austin. This panel was moderated by Anderson and raised many questions: What role can outside players assume in trying to settle the dispute? What will India and Pakistan allow them to do? Is outside facilitation indispensable, or will India and Pakistan ever be able to resolve their differences bilaterally? Will a “Camp David” approach work? Has the international community missed any opportunities? What are the limits of outside facilitation? The final panel, Looking Ahead: Alternative Scenarios, featured Sumantra Bose of the London School of Economics and Political Science; former US ambassador to Sri Lanka Teresita Schaffer, who now heads the South Asia Programme at the Centre for International and Strategic Studies; and Ayesha Jalal of Tufts University. This panel was moderated by Ellen Laipson, of the National Intelligence Council, who was formerly the director of Near East and South Asia at the NSC. The key questions addressed at this session included: What are the ways the dispute could be settled? Can the LoC become the accepted international border? Are there any other solutions, like “soft borders” that could be acceptable to India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris? Is “no solution” the most likely near-term outcome of the current phase of the dispute? If so, what does that mean for bilateral relations between India and Pakistan? Is “no solution” preferable to one where Pakistan is forced to concede the LoC as the international border, thus abandoning formally its claim to all of Kashmir? The state department's policy planning bureau, in particular, which is now headed by Richard Haas — who is close to secretary of state Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, is expected to call the shots when it comes to developing policy toward South Asia and is envisaged to exercise much more clout and influence than the South Asia bureau. Before being appointed to head this bureau, Mr Haas was vice president and director of foreign policy studies at the Brooking Institution since 1996. But it was during his tenure at the national security council from 1989 to 1993 when he was special assistant for President George Bush (the current president's father) and senior director for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, that he developed a close relationship with Powell, who at the time was national security adviser and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was during this time that Mr Haas also worked with Ms Rice, who was a NSC staffer. Before joining the state department at head of the policy planning bureau, Mr Haas at various seminars, conferences, interviews and in his own speeches made no secret of the fact that resolving the Kashmir dispute is among several things India would have to do if New Delhi were to institutionalise its relationship with Washington and be considered a global player. At one briefing at Brookings, he argued that India will “only have the capacity or the potential to become more of a global actor when its regional house is in order. Right now, the India-Pakistan relationship, all the violence, the potential for conflict,” is something that “limits India's potential to devote its resources to a larger role.” Thus, he said, ultimately, “India should think of ways of meeting Pakistan half-way, arguably more because India has so much to gain beyond South Asia. Ultimately, India will become a successful global actor if it also proves itself a successful regional actor, “and that includes resolving the Kashmir imbroglio.”


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