Thursday, June 18, 2009

Indians angered by U.S. policy in Kashmir

Indians angered by U.S. policy in Kashmir
By Susenjit Guha

If the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama wants to know why anti-Americanism keeps brewing in different parts of the world, it should take a hard look at the dangerous Afghanistan-Pakistan policy it is toying with, at the expense of India, and the inevitable fallout that might result.

What kind of talks did Undersecretary of State William Burns have in mind when he allegedly carried the U.S. message to India last week that dialogue with Pakistan should resume once again? Can India trust Pakistan, especially since nothing serious has been done to arrest the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks that were hatched and carried out from Pakistan?

In the wake of the release by Pakistani courts of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, leader of the banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba – now masquerading as an NGO under the name of Jama'at-ud-Da'wah – what can India expect from Pakistan? Saeed has proudly boasted of his organization’s covert jihad in Indian Kashmir. His organization is suspected of numerous terror attacks in India including the carnage in Mumbai last year, which caused the suspension of the India-Pakistan dialogue in the first place.

Indian columnist Tavleen Singh was spot on when she queried, in an article in the Indian Express, why no one had asked Burns during his New Delhi visit whether his country could be persuaded to have a “dialogue” with Pakistan if Osama bin Laden had been similarly arrested and released by Islamabad?

Now the United States is encouraging Pakistan to move its armed forces away from India and toward the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, but this is more out of necessity to bolster the U.S. war in Afghanistan than to treat India fairly. Pakistan has moved many of its troops to its western border, but a big contingent still remains eyeball to eyeball with Indian troops on the Kashmir border.

The United States wants India to pull back its troops in Kashmir to ensure that Pakistan will do the same, in order to shore up its western sector where U.S. interests are at stake. This would leave Kashmir in grave danger. Veteran Indian journalist M. J. Akbar called the U.S. advice on Kashmir “lunacy” in a column written for the Times of India.

When Burns spelled out the U.S. message that a solution to Kashmir should factor in “the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” he was repeating the rhetoric of rogue elements in the Pakistani administration and military. Burns would like to see demilitarization in Kashmir. So would Pakistan, knowing that it can count on terrorist elements to continue the fight if both the Indian and the Pakistani armies back down. As M. J. Akbar wrote in the same column, “If America wants a DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) in India they will first have to ensure a DTZ (De-Terrorized Zone) in Pakistan.” This is exactly what the United States is shying away from. It doesn’t want to irk Pakistan to the point that it will resist aiding the war effort in Afghanistan.

It is the narrow U.S.-centric interests pursued by the U.S. administration at the expense of India, the largest democracy in the world, that rankles. Proposals like the one from Burns are only shielding Pakistan, which has long carried out covert operations to terrorize India, as part of its state policy.

With branded terrorists like Saeed walking free in Pakistan, is there any point to a resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue? Who will take responsibility for stopping terrorist infiltration into India through the mountainous terrain of Kashmir?

Britain has also been hinting that India should back off from its Kashmir border with Pakistan, as Foreign Secretary David Miliband mentioned Kashmir and India’s role as a major node on the terror war hub when he visited India a few months ago.

Either the present U.S. administration has got it all wrong on South Asia, or it is simply falling back on the age-old tack of pushing U.S. interests even if it means treading on a few toes. The new wave of “change” that the world was led to expect, along with millions of Americans, when Obama took office, could end up being too abrupt and premature. If meting out justice for acts of terror is recalibrated to suit U.S. interests, Americans may still believe in the mantra of “change,” but not Indians.

If the United States is unable to convince Pakistan to trust India, and rather expects India to take suicidal steps in leaving itself vulnerable to attack, this will pave the way for anti-Americanism to rear its head among a large section of Indian society once again.

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