Bush’s visit, Kashmir issue and Pakistan

By K.N. Pandita – President Bush’s recent Indian visit may prove a landmark event in the contemporary history of the sub-continent. Studied in historical perspective, his statements in India, Pakistan and back home in the US show a marked deviation from the traditional policy of the US towards the two important countries of the sub-continent. This is the de-hyphening of the two countries by the American administration.

Observers addicted to drawing negative conclusions of Indo-US relations may not be prepared to change their mindset. Their problem is their inability to keep pace with fast changing situation on international plane.

Undoubtedly the US is looking for partners in the orient who would be effective and positive actors in combating the menace of terrorism. Only strong and stable democracies can deliver the goods.

Considering her decades old alliance with the US a strong lever, Islamabad always hoped Washington would play a decisive role of bringing pressures on India to resolve Kashmir issue. A number of times General Musharraf even expressed it publicly.

Kashmir separatists and secessionists have been projecting themselves more loyal than the king. A secessionist leader from the valley recently said that the valley Muslims did not stage any big anti-American demonstration when Bush was in India just because they expect him to bring New Delhi under pressure for the resolution of Kashmir issue.

This did not happen. President Bush’s two or three remarks, although very pithy, give an insight into the changed policy of the US in regard to Kashmir as well as Pakistan. He said that Kashmir issue should be resolved by the leaders of the two countries through a dialogue. He did not bring in the third party meaning the people of Kashmir. This sets at rest the oft- repeated claim of the people of Kashmir that they are a party to the dispute.

The reason for President Bush to eliminate the so-called third party is not that he wanted to make any favour to India. The fact is that during the elections of 1996 and 2003, Washington exhorted the Hurriyat to take part in elections and prove its popularity. The Hurriyat refused to participate. Thus it has lost its credibility with the Americans. On the other hand, an elected government was brought in place and international press considered those elections fair and impartial. Therefore the popular government represents the people of Kashmir.

Secondly, President Bush very clearly told Pakistani President that a democratic Pakistan would be good for India. He exhorted him to hold elections in 2007. This means that Pakistan should first establish its credentials as a free and democratic country before claiming that Kashmiris have the option of joining his military dictatorship. In simple words Bush’s statement has excluded the option for Kashmiris joining Pakistan. It is so because the essence of America’s anti-terrorist campaign is to support and promote democratic dispensation in countries where it is lacking. In the light of that basic thinking, Kashmir cannot be allowed to lose its hard earned democratic status.

Evidently, American President appears to have understood the delicate dimensions of Kashmir issue. In that sense his recent visit has been of much help to both the countries and to the people of Kashmir. It has put at rest a decade and half year – old speculation that Washington would sooner or later play the decisive role. The American President said very emphatically that the US was not going to mediate in the dispute though it would facilitate the leadership in both the countries to conduct peaceful negotiations.

What emerges from this overview is that the US is not prepared to propose any change in the status quo in Kashmir. This naturally means that a host of formulae proposed by various agencies and organizations, particularly in the US, stand discarded by White House. We hope all so-called Kashmir experts, who had been making a loud noise all these years, will wind up their shops and tell the Kashmiri separatists and secessionists to abandon their dreams and play a pragmatic role in alleviating the suffering of their people.

The group most depressed with President Bush’s utterances will be the gun-wielding terrorists. They are left with only one option, either they read the writing on the wall and eschew violence or they step up their cowardly acts of killing innocent people by planting bombs and attacking the crowds. From the statements of the US President and the Prime Ministers of UK and Australia and also from the heads of some European governments, there is no sympathy or support for the terrorists in Kashmir. No country is prepared to recognize them as “freedom fighters” as they would like.

Escalation in acts of terrorism is the logical conclusion of America’s changed policy in the sub-continent. Indian security forces must be adequately prepared to meet the challenge. Much depends on the people of the valley to see an end to bloodshed of innocent civilians. It would be prudent on their part to read the writing on the wall. They should stop extending even the slightest support to the terrorists in the valley because it is the innocent Kashmiris who are getting killed. They have the responsibility of ensuring safety of their people. There is no other way left for them. (The writer is the former Director of the Centre for Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University) . End.

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