November 2002 News

Kashmiris happier within India: US expert

2 November 2002
The Hindustan Times

Washington DC: Ordinary Kashmiris, if left to themselves, would prefer to live within the Indian Union with a fair degree of autonomy, but with infiltration from Pakistan continuing, the USA must play its role for peace by pressurizing it to stop the inflow of militants to ensure a path to final settlement. If Islamabad doesn't oblige, aid may be cut off, and if it does, both aid and trade may be enhanced. This was categorically stated by Anatol Lieven, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and former correspondent for The Times, London, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has just returned from a trip to Pakistan where the political parties are trying to cobble up a coalition regime after the elections. In Lieven's opinion, Pakistan must be a part of negotiations in Jamu and Kashmir if a settlement is to be workable and its army in particular has to be taken into account. In fact, about Washinton's role, the scholar based his argument on the primacy that the army enjoys in Pakistan and the regular Kashmiris' yearning for autonomy even as men with gun would like to frustrate that intention. Said Lieven: 'It is true that because - not only because of this but in part because of this - that the Pakistani army simply dominates discussion, not to mention strategy, concerning Kashmir to such an extent in Pakistan that it's very difficult to imagine any settlement there which doesn't to some extent salve the pride of the Pakistani army - give it some kind of face-saving element so that it can say that it hasn't simply had to surrender.' He further substantiated his logic by observing that 'the evidence that I've seen suggests that most ordinary Kashmiris would settle for autonomy - return to really full autonomy. I think that's also true in Chechnya, by the way. The problem is, of course, that there are so many men with guns around who exist precisely to frustrate that tendency. And clearly, as long as there isn't a settlement with Pakistan, there will be some degree of Pakistani encouragement of the - whatever you want to call them - the irreconcilables.' Hence, according to Lieven, 'in these circumstances, I do believe that the US has both a duty, a right, and a strong national interest in trying to push for peace over Kashmir and trying to diffuse this conflict. I believe that the recent Kashmir election results, while they were certainly not an endorsement of Indian rule over Kashmir, do give an opportunity to push forward a peace settlement, both within Kashmir, and ideally between Pakistan andm India.' Speaking on the possible effects of the success of religious parties in Pakistani elections, he said as far as the USA is concerned, the main question is whether the outcome will affect Pakistan's cooperation in the hunt for fugitive Al-Qaeda and Taliban members. There is already an impact in the North-West Frontier Province where the MMA(a conglomerate of religious parties) had its best result. But Lieven also pointed out that the Pakistani army - and not local and provincial police - has been and will continue to be in charge of operations against Al-Qaeda and so the MMA victory may have little impact. This is what he said in this connection: 'Within the Frontier - well, we've already seen them, even before they take power in the Frontier, there has been an effect. Local policemen have released Taliban people, and from what I gather, the local police, yes, are standing down. The hope, as I've said, is that it hasn't been the local police who in any sense are the core of Pakistani operations against Al-Qaeda, and that will no doubt remain the case.' 'On the whole,' the scholar added, 'they've seen these Islamists as useful to Pakistan: useful in Afghanistan - building up a buffer zone, .... and of course useful in Kashmir. But as a result, they've got a couple of very bloody noses - very bloody nose in Afghanistan, and since the US has really come down against infiltration, a pretty bloody nose in Kashmir as well. And I think that's rocked them back on their heels, and they're not quite sure where to go from here.' And asked about the influence of Islamists in the Pakistani army,Lieven replied that he doesn't believe they've taken over the institution but rather that the army has used them for its own purposes.

 

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