Mind games in DC: Give and take for Kashmir

A Pakistani diplomat whispers that Americans realize they can't “clean the mess in Afghanistan without us - and of course we want a solution to Kashmir."

Ibrahim Sajid Malick August 04, 2010
Several Pakistani intellectuals who had descended on Washington DC to attend the 11th International Kashmir Peace Conference (July 28-29, 2010) were neither intellectuals nor interested in peace. Wasting time and resources, Pakistani representatives (with a few exceptions) read from a script crafted decades ago at the GHQ – only changing the words slightly. I bet if you took the text of their speeches and ran it through sophisticated software to check intellectual integrity you would find an abundance of plagiarism.

Negativity of approach was so overwhelming that ‘Kashmir issue’ lost more currency, instead of gaining ground. With WikiLeaks dominating the mind share, American media barely covered the event.

In discussions, both private and public, Pakistani speakers demanded that America broker a settlement in exchange for the ‘sacrifices’ Pakistan has made in the war against terror. Accusations were made claiming America has 'betrayed' Pakistan, an ally of nearly 60 years. “Under the Bush administration, the neo-cons have steered the US towards India and away from Pakistan,” a Pakistani intellectual claimed. He explained that this is “because the Jewish-Hindu lobby dominates policy making in Washington.”

A child-like envy over growing India-US ties was in abundance.

Old and tired threats were made stating that if the Kashmir issue is not resolved there will be no peace in either Afghanistan or India. Unfortunately, many who “spoke for” Kashmir, lacked intellectual depth, and understanding of imperatives that drive strategic diplomatic ties.

All agreed that the last decade has been a truly transformational one for India-US ties but no one can explain why. Last November when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came to Washington on his first state visit of the new US administration, it was a clear indication that Democrats on the hill will continue to see India through the prism it first located during the BJP government. India’s proverbial ‘openness’ has yielded rich dividends in terms of cooperation in many areas, underscoring the vitality and the relevance of the India-US strategic partnership.

It was therefore, not surprising that the Obama administration recalibrated its earlier stance of bracketing “Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan” together. Afghanistan and Pakistan are ‘pain points’ but Washington sees India as a centre of influence in the 21st century.

A Pakistani diplomat whispered in my ear that Americans realize that they cannot “clean the mess in Afghanistan without our help -and of course we want a solution to the Kashmir issue in return.”

A friend who also spoke at the conference claimed that Washington is finally realizing that India and Pakistan are equally important in that region. I beg to differ!

I would urge you to look at the transformation of DC-Delhi relationship against the backdrop of India’s initiatives to reform its economy and the geopolitical changes in the post Cold War world.

Indian officials would claim that their ties with the US are primarily due to shared values of democracy, pluralism, tolerance, and respect for fundamental freedoms. You may not agree with this assertion – I don’t buy this argument in entirety either.

But we can’t deny that growing economic linkages and people-to-people contact between India and the US are real. Over the last two decades, Indian and American businesses have formed strong and mutually beneficial partnerships touching the lives of ordinary people; a fairly balanced trade in goods and services has grown astronomically.

Most importantly, Pakistanis tend to forget that both Indians and Americans share an increasing convergence of interests on major global issues.

By using the 11th Kashmir moot in Washington DC as a venting session, Pakistanis basically lost an opportunity to build the zone of trust. The Kashmir issue is real, and a solution will emerge only when Pakistan and India stop exploiting the people of Kashmir.  It has become a financial drain for India and Pakistan’s strategy to use a rag-tag army of fundamentalists has cost Pakistan in orders of magnitude more than anyone every estimated.

There is a broad-based political support both in India and Pakistan to finally let the people of Kashmir speak for themselves but these pseudo intellectuals who had come to attend the conference are not ready to move on.

Instead of allowing the GHQ to drive India-centric foreign policy, we will do Pakistan and Kashmir more justice if we were to expand our diplomatic orbit. If we establish mutually beneficial economic ties with Brazil and Venezuela, South Africa and Kenya, Chile and Bolivia, Malaysia and Indonesia – Pakistan will have more allies in the world and we will not have to run to Washington DC to beg Americans for stewardship on the Kashmir issue.

India today has a free pass to commit unthinkable violence on Kashmiri people partially because we have lost all legitimacy. How can we raise our voices and wave our fists when it is an undisputed fact that Pakistan army used rag-tag warriors of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Jaish-e- Muhammed, the Taliban, and more, with intent to make India bleed in Kashmir? What moral grounds do we stand on?

We can’t be running to the US or Israel for support – we must build a broad based multi-lateral framework of developing nations to counter Indian belligerence in Kashmir. We must stop thinking about Kashmir as a ‘disputed territory’ and start working for the safety and security – both physical and financial of the people of Kashmir.

No cause can justify terrorism – Kashmir is no exception.

Both India and Pakistan have a vital interest in defeating terrorism and in this context, our bilateral cooperation on terrorism is crucial. Both India and Pakistan must immediately cease terrorising the Kashmiri people.
Ibrahim Sajid Malick A Pakistani-American writer, technologist, and social entrepreneur. Malick graduated from New School for Social Research with a masters degree in anthropology. He holds several technology and management certifications.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Murad Ali | 13 years ago | Reply Best article on Kashmir I have ever read in Pakistan. You have a lot of courage. Thank you for being so open. We have lost so much following Kashmir line. We need to take care of what is already ours and stop worrying about India so much. I like what you have suggested about diplomacy as well.
Anoop | 13 years ago | Reply @Naseer, I feel so happy to see a guy stand for "Humanity". If only your countrymen and your army,especially, shown "humanity" towards poor Bengalis, Pakistan would be still Jinnah's Pakistan. 63 years of the 1000 year war is over but Pakistan has not been able to occupy a single inch of Kashmir. 977 years to go. Regarding the article itself, it is a very balanced one. One that looks at issues from an unemotional,yet sympathetic manner. But, the writer has not gone into why India will not let 2nd partition happen or why Kashmir has become Pakistan's(even suicidal) ambition since its birth. India being a far more powerful and stable country with excellent institutions can absorb whatever Pakistan throws at it. But, thankfully, Pakistan itself is facing the monster's ire that it created. Hopefully, better sense will prevail and Pakistan will hunt down these fanatical Islamists that it once it created to fight India.
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