Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kashmir: Obama's first foreign policy mistake

The statement by United States president-elect Barack Obama regarding American intervention in Kashmir is his first foreign policy mistake, a leading expert on South Asia said on Tuesday.

A Kashmir initiative by America, however veiled, can undermine improving India-US ties, Selig S Harrison, director of Asia Programme at the Center for International Policy and a senior scholar of the Woodrow Wilson International, said an opinion piece published in The Washington Times.

In an interview to Time magazine in October, Obama had said that Kashmir is a place he wanted to devote serious diplomatic resources to get a special envoy in there, to figure out a plausible approach.Harrison, who specialises in South Asia and East Asia for past 50 years, said Obama would face resistance from not only India, but also Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.

"By questioning Indian control of the Kashmir Valley, the United States would strengthen jihadi forces in both Islamabad and Srinagar. More importantly, it would undermine improving US-India relations," he argued.

"A US Kashmir initiative, however veiled, would poison relations between New Delhi and Washington," he said.

Harrison said the rationale for intervention is that fear of India requires Pakistan to strengthen its western front in Afghanistan by supporting the Taliban.

But the reason for Pakistani support of the Taliban and jihadi forces in Kashmir is that its military and intelligence agencies are riddled with Islamists, he said.

"The appointment of a high-level regional envoy in South Asia to promote cooperation among India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in combating al-Qaeda and its allies would be desirable in the aftermath of Mumbai. But Kashmir indeed would be a tar pit for such an envoy," Harrison said.


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