Mubarack O?

President Obama has many real crises that he must handle. Kashmir is not one of them.

So Barack Obama waited until the very last stage of the campaign before actually revealing what exactly he had in mind when he said he wanted to “facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis”. He meant that the United States would appoint a “special envoy”—that unhappy graveyard of diplomacy, given their record of failure—to “figure out a plausible approach”.

…and essentially make the argument to the Indians, you guys are on the brink of being an economic superpower, why do you want to keep on messing with this? To make the argument to the Pakistanis, look at India and what they are doing, why do you want to keep n being bogged down with this particularly at a time where the biggest threat now is coming from the Afghan boarder? I think there is a moment where potentially we could get their attention. It won’t be easy, but it’s important.

Q. Sounds like a job for Bill Clinton.

A. Might not be bad. I actually talked to Bill, I talked to President Clinton about this when we had lunch in Harlem. [Joe Klein/Swampland/TIME]

If the good Indian-Americans at USINPAC had heard that before—and Mr Obama’s campaign probably made sure they didn’t—they might have had something different to say. That apart, what Kashmir crisis? In a world that’s not short of events that fit that description, Kashmir—even after this summer’s incidents—is not in crisis. So Mr Obama would do well to “devote serious diplomatic resources” to places where there really is a crisis. Like the geographical region to the West of the India-Pakistan border. The special envoy could walk any distance westwards from the Line of Control and find any number of crises that he needs to solve rather urgently.

In fact, for a platform that emphasises change, Mr Obama’s ‘Kashmir thesis’ is a remix of an old idea that didn’t ever work. [See these older posts] In the current geopolitical and geoeconomic situation, it’s even less likely to work. In fact, the special envoy might be told that “you guys are on the brink of not being an superpower, why do you want to keep on messing with this?”

But the Indian reaction can be more sophisticated. New Delhi could welcome a special envoy and have meetings with him in exotic locations around the subcontinent. (Clocking frequent flier miles comes with the job of being a special envoy). In the best case, it won’t achieve much beyond what is already taking place bilaterally between India and Pakistan. What is more likely though, is that it will create false hopes among sundry separatists and delay Kashmir’s return to normalcy.

If Mr Obama really wants change, he’d do well to tell the Pakistanis to stop worrying about the wishes of the Kashmiri people and start worrying about their own. He doesn’t actually have to tell them, though, because that’s what they are doing these days anyway.

The business of attempting to increase America’s popularity in Pakistan by getting involved in solving Kashmir has run its course. Getting involved in the Kashmir dispute is unlikely to assuage Pakistani opinion as long as the US continues to carry out attacks in Pakistan. But Mr Obama must realise that if the United States does not try to keep India on its side in Afghanistan, it’ll have no one left. That’s something that the Indian government must impress on America’s new president at the very outset.

Update:Mint’s Samanth Subramanian quotes from this post as he looks for the pulse of the Indian blogosphere.

34 thoughts on “Mubarack O?”

  1. why do you want to keep on messing with this?

    So very childish. Although, going by another article by B. Raman, it looks like we havent heard the last of such ideas. It was particularly revealing that a Pakistani has an advisory role to Petraeus. Humbug!

    But Mr Obama must realise that if the United States does not try to keep India on its side in Afghanistan, it’ll have no one left.

    Well, thanks for that!….finally.
    I think thats the clearest articulation of what is needed. Clearer than any other post by you till now on this topic.

  2. Nitin, I don’t think Obama can be persuaded so easy. Just like Bush was impressed with India (large democracy and what not) before he took office, Obama is an Islamo-phile based on his intellectual upbringing on world affairs – his tutors were a terrorist himself and a avid PLO supporter. There will be a significant shift from Bush’s policy from LoP to Syria impacting security of India, Afghanistan, as well as Israel.

    MEA will be well advised to understand where Obama is coming from, based on who his friends were in Chicago’s small world, and act to counter it. At least the presidential walk-ins in White house will be a thing of the past….

  3. The Kashmir bone was Obama’s late-stage pacifying of US muslims and Pakistanis, in particular – not a big voting bloc anyway – given that he had bagged the much more significant Indian-American votes (and backing) already. Nothing much is going to come of it. He’s not well-disposed towards Pakistan for starters. And we may be able to rely on his intelligence for him to see the truth of the special envoy could walk any distance westwards from the Line of Control and find any number of crises that he needs to solve rather urgently.

  4. Chandra – I doubt Obama made the Kashmir statement influenced by some latent love for Islam, neither would he have lost any sleep over the miniscule and irrelevant India-American or Muslim vote; Indian-American money is a different matter. [by now, most american politicians know that indians will give tons of money for a photo-op, and post Iraq ,most muslims would have voted for any democrat]
    This road to the Kabul lies through Kashmir canard has been doing the think tank rounds for some months now. And, were I to venture a guess, I would say that it is being pushed by Pakistan’s friends in the foreign policy circles, like Colin Powell.

    I so wish the Indians in America would learn from our Jewish friends, who punch way above their weight category. Despite their low numbers, such is the Jewish influence that, no candidate running for President, including Barry Obama, would dare cross them on Israel.

  5. The road to peace in Afghanistan does not go through Kashmir. India must make it clear to Obama, that Kashmir is an issue because Pakistan chooses to make it an issue, by means of the the “moral” support it extends to the Kashmiri terrorists. India must make it clear to Obama that he does not have to appoint an envoy for Kashmir. Its like India appointing an envoy for Georgia! India should persuade Obama that the solution lies in Pakistan curtailing its imperial ambitions.

  6. “This is as silly as it gets.”

    How is it rational to be think it’s silly being an Islamo-phile? Is that a bad thing for a person to be?

    Trilok, read B. Raman latest post. He has good analysis on who may influence Obama how.

    I was hoping to write a more detailed blog on why I think Obama is an Islamo-phile. Just like Bush was Indo-phile there is nothing wrong with it. We just need to aware of it. I think what Obama does has little to do with money. I think he did well on that front. Also, I agree Jews/Israel can take care of themselves.

  7. BO, buddy boy, don’t get carried away by your win. India is your friend, so far. Don’t start acting all messianic and fritter away that goodwill. Presidents think before they talk.

  8. Obama has close relations with Zbigniew Brzezinski: [1 2 3]

    People like Brzezinski and Albright are hellbent on pursuing Russia, like Ahab pursuing Moby Dick. Consequently, they want Islamic militancy kept alive in SouthAsia, as a tool to use against Moscow. It is not in America’s interest to see a revived Cold War with Russia, even though Brzezinski will tell him any tall tales to lure Obama into a trap of confrontation. Obama’s problem is his inexperience in international affairs, which would allow him to easily be mislead by the Brzezinskis, Albrights, and others of Euro-centrist their ilk. They are the ones putting ideas into his head about making India the scapegoat for Pakistan’s intransigence in the War on Terror. We cannot allow them to win the day, and must plainly call a spade a spade, by directly fingering these culprits (Brzezinski, Albright, etc), and complaining about them specifically. I don’t care if Brzezinski or Albright get offended by our complaints. Our survival comes first. It’s all about issue saliency.

  9. It is only by highlighting and exposing the motivations and machinations of the Brzezinskis and Albrights that we can neutralize them, or at least hamper them, and reduce their latitude of action. Again, we should have no qualms or hesitation about voicing our complaints loudly, as these people have no love to be lost for us. So we have nothing to lose by drawing attention to their negative ethics, which are inimical to US interests as well as India’s.

    Otherwise, if we fail to do this, then these machiavellians will continue to practice their mischief unopposed. Why would we want that??
    “All that it takes for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing”

  10. As every Indian thinks that US is apar from racism.. black white, blah blah blah.it is not that US is really away from racism, they are really fed up with the unpopular foolish Bush’s policy, to appease the nations who promotes christianity, and the Business lobbys to woooh him and make money, USA middile class which is around 95% is totally against the policies of Bush, and Mccain is no better than Bush. so no other alternative that is why Obama is elected as President.

    India should be independent on her economy, never depend on another country’s dollar or money to become prosperous that is dangerous! so outsourcing, call centers, and google pay checks must be stopped for our Bharat to develop by herself! Obama is a great orator, intellectual and also very strict in policies. Only thing he will do first different from other Presidents of US is he will first give warning Pakistan, to co-operate to catch the vital laden, otherwise face bombing without warning.. that is the one I like from his campaign statements.

    Bush is having an agenda.. OBAMA is having agenda only for his countries interest, not for religious He dont want to convert the whole world to Christianity!

  11. @ Sanjay

    Are you not being a little too naive to presuming that Albright and Brzezinski are ideologues, as opposed to being genuine hard-headed foreign policy analysts? Is it not possible that their decisions when they were last in power – which was at least ten years ago – were influenced by the world at that time?

    Even assuming for a moment that they are indeed stuck in a time warp, I am not sure it will be easy for them to play the games they are used to in today’s world.

    While it is true that Democrats tend to be more activist presidents, we must keep in mind the current world scenario before we pass judgment.

  12. Oh come on, now. During Albright’s own confirmation hearings before the senate, the main complaint raised against her was that she was an Atlanticist. This was based on her already known track record, before she even held high office.

    Young Maria Korbel was steeped in the persecution dramas of Europe from a young age: link

    It was Albright who called LTTE a “Hindu terrorist group”, reflecting the scope of her biased worldview.

    Look at Brzezinski’s own words, which I have quoted above. The guy basically lured the Soviets into a quagmire in Afghanistan. And we Indians suffered collateral damage.

    Have you read his book, “The Grand Chessboard”??
    It’s absolutely outrageous! Why would you defend somebody like that??
    link link link link

    The man backed the Khmer Rouge, for heaven’s sakes! That’s justifiable for you? It shows a man who is a dangerous ideologue.
    After 9/11 and the subsequent US invasion of Afghanistan, an alarmed Brzezinski immediately urged the US not get involved with unsavory India, and get into bed with its “Hindu fanatics”

    During his testimony in front of the senate, the man claimed that the current War on Terror could lead the US govt to stage a false-flag terror incident against its own people, in order to rally support for the War. That kind of statement is absolutely crazy, and nobody else of comparable influence in Washington has ever made any similar allegations. (Except maybe Cynthia McKinney). The guy has also launched the most aggressive attack yet on US Jews in Washington politics. He’s of course constantly promoting the phrase ‘Islamophobia’ everywhere. Are you going to tell me all these things are just unrelated coincidences? link

    Most damning of all, Brzezinski is the founder of the Trilateral Commission, which amounts to a Fifth Estate.

    So if you’re trying to defend Brzezinski to me, then it tells me more about you than about the subject you’re commenting on. This guy is no good for India, that’s for sure. Look, I’m sorry that Poland lost 40% of its population, as it was attacked first by the Germans and then later by the Soviets from the opposite side — but we Indians aren’t responsible for that. We certainly shouldn’t become collateral damage for this guy, as he seeks revenge against his blood-enemies, the Russians.

  13. “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?”
    -Zbigniew Brzezinski, in his interview with Le Nouvel Observateur newspaper of France

    And you’re defending this guy? What nationality are you? You certainly can’t be Indian. Do you not understand the pain the pain that we received because of attitudes like his?
    I am a great admirer of European culture and its greatness, but I hate Indians who are Euro-centrists, and who will go out of their way to defend anyone who attacks us. That kind of self-destructive mindset deserves to be rewarded by self-extinction. Just don’t take the rest of us with you, thanks.

  14. So if you’re trying to defend Brzezinski to me, then it tells me more about you than about the subject you’re commenting on.

    Instead of launching into a tirade with your viewpoint, it will do you lot of good to pause and *think*.

    All I am saying is the following:

    1. This Brzezinski chap or for that matter Albright did something in the past. This past is close to (at least) 10 years ago. The world today is not the same as it was back then.

    2. Even if they are indeed ideologues as you say, unless you can forsee the future, I would reserve judgment on what influence his or Albright’s ‘advice’ will have on an Obama administration.

    Simply extrapolating the past doesn’t help unless you see a good reason to do so. And I did not find a good reason in your arguments; hence my question.

    Perhaps your analysis would have made more sense after a clearer picture emerges when Obama is inaugurated as President.

    btw, why does my nationality matter to you? Please stick to the point. Getting personal and worked up doesn’t cut ice. What’s more, it gives the impression that you are trying to cover your inability to answer with bluster and rhetoric.

  15. Buddy, Russia still exists and is even bouncing back, therefore Brzezinski will continue to go after them — using American power as his vehicle, of course.

    Again, Brzezinski was crafty enough to approach Obama early on, to cultivate friendship with him. His ulterior motives are glaringly obvious. Chancellor Palpatine intends to turn Anakin to the Dark Side.

    More pertinently, Brzezinski will seek to tilt the balance back in Pakistan’s favour, in order to reverse what he sees as a deteriorating slide in their situation. He and his minions (Albright, Holbrooke, etc) will therefore slyly tell Obama that Pakistan’s vacillation in the War on Terror is due to the Kashmir dispute. The attempt will be made to scapegoat India for the failures of the War on Terror (ie. India’s inflexibility on Kashmir is tying Pakistan’s hands on cooperation with the US, etc)

    We cannot allow renewed US intervention to revive Pakistani activism on Kashmir, bringing a revival in terrorism along with it. If the Americans do this, then we will have to hold their feet to the fire, by loading forces back onto the LOC, compelling Pak to shift troops away from NWFP, thus freeing up Taliban forces to attack into Afghanistan. If the Americans want to ride the tiger, then they’ll reap the whirlwind.

  16. Yes, I feel your nationality matters, because I feel you’re asserting a position that is inimical to Indian interests. This is not an academic debate here — Indian lives and India’s future hang in the balance. If you call yourself an Indian, then please take the issue of India’s national security seriously. This is not something to be trifled with over fashion-passions for some elected celebrity.

  17. Also, India needs to use US concerns over Iran to its advantage, as insurance against any meddling in Kashmir. The Iran issue will be coming to a head fairly soon, and Obama will need to keep India onside for it.

  18. Prepare for the worst of the Carter and Clinton regimes for the next 4 years. The game has already begun with Russia moving missiles right next to NATO. Obama is weak on Foreign Policy and National Security. He is guided by Carter and Clinton ideologues. That’s going to translate into a lot of talk and very little action. Remember what happened when John F Kennedy met Kruschev?

  19. I’d even call some of these people ethno-logues rather than ideologues. Some of them are die-hard “Atlanticists” (ie. Euro-centrists) because of their personal baggage.

    When Kennedy and Khruschev clashed during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviets only backed down because the US had a 5:1 nuclear missile superiority over them. That incident of course made the Soviets rush to overcome that gap, after Khruschev was forced into retirement.

    Putin is no crude rural guy like Khruschev, and also importantly, the bulk of US forces are tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US has no great leverage against the Russians right now – it’s quite the opposite, in fact.

    Hopefully, the Russians won’t get overconfident.

  20. This is not an academic debate here

    It is not a shouting match either. Your way of proving your point is to launch into a tirade every time someone disagrees with you.

    You did *not* get the basic point I make: It has been less than 72 hours since this idiot was officially declared the winner. He hasn’t yet announced his cabinet.

    You can continue with all your analysis, but what’s the harm in waiting for a few months before rushing to judgment? I only said that your analysis now is purely based on *past*. Even the Brzezinski interview that you cite was done in 2001 – before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, much before the deep recession that the West is in today. What’s more, India of the mid-1990s is not the same as India today.

    You seem to have the mistaken notion that anyone who disagrees with you is automatically a supporter of Obama/Albright/Brezinski. That is no way to conduct a reasoned debate, academic or not.

    Yes, I feel your nationality matters, because I feel you’re asserting a position that is inimical to Indian interests.

    My “position” – if you call it that – is that I only find it difficult to agree with your conclusions based only on the past and without current data. Perhaps your jumping to conclusions is far more harmful to our interests that a measured deliberation based on facts as they emerge.

  21. photonman, the fact that your responses seem to revolve around your personal sense of pique and umbrage, in precedence over the actual issues at hand, tells me all I need to know about you.(“he didn’t say thankyou! he didn’t say please!” – Pfft, whatever. Get over it.)

    He has been speaking about his campaign platform for months now, and it’s placed a lot of emphasis on protectionist policies. The fact is that Indian labour inputs to the US economy help to more affordably create and sustain other jobs in the US economy, rather than purely displacing existing US jobs.
    Indians are providing American companies (and consequently their workforces) with more value for their money, and that’s why those Indians are being hired. Certainly, nobody’s doing it for charity’s sake. Furthermore, Indian companies are also expanding their hiring to the US, as well as other parts of the world.

    I don’t think Obama’s an idiot, but I do think that there may be others who will try to take advantage of his newness to warp his opinions.
    I think we need to focus on highlighting our complaints about Brzezinski, Albright, Holbrooke, and Atlanticism in general, because this is what’s driving some of the policy biases against us in SouthAsia.

    I’m glad he’s appointed Rahm Emanuel, though, as this indicates he won’t be a total stooge of the Muslim lobby. It remains to be seen how the rest of his staff turns out, but I’m certainly advocating that we keep our guard up, and plan for contingency problems if needed.

  22. Sanjay, please stop making up fantasies – total stooge of the Muslim lobby, eh? See, you are implying that Obama is an idiot. Photonman has a good point. Everyone knows what Brezinski has been involved in over the years, but you claim to know exactly why he did so. This blog is supposed to be realist you know, so photonman’s point of view is quite plausible. As for false flag operations, there is the Gulf of Tonkin and NATO operations in Europe (during and after Brezinski’s time). Given what you accuse him of, he is probably speaking from experience, no?

  23. Nanda, during campaigning, Obama was quick to dismiss critics of the failed MidEast peace process as “Likud” types. In other words, he was dismissing healthy skepticism as “hardline” behavior. The fact is that Arafat was not a credible negotiating partner. If you’re going to negotiate peace, then you’d better not be darting to violence everytime you need some negotiating leverage.

    As for Gulf of Tonkin comparisons, please don’t disingenuously pretend that the US govt could stage a 9/11 attack against its own people to frame it on Iran. It tells me I’m talking to someone wearing a tinfoil hat. Brzezinski made exactly that allegation, when speaking during Congressional hearings. Spin doctors downplayed it as bombast, but it really tells me how desperate the guy is to derail the War on Terror.

    Yes, it’s glaringly obvious why Brzezinski has done what he has, and why Albright is the same way, and Soros too. My father used to work for a financier colleague of Soros, and he got to see up close the ugly ethnic passions that drive such people. We Indians are mere expendables to people like that.

  24. Sanjay, sorry about the delayed response, but if I’m not missing something the so called war on terror (has a ring to it I suppose) is a drummed up hoax. I see war criminals, not a war on terror. If Brezinski was so cosy with Islamists, how come things got so bad in Iran on his watch? Fine, I don’t understand a lot of what’s going on, but let’s stay sane on the war on terror thingy. In any case, it’s not our war on terror.

  25. photonman, the fact that your responses seem to revolve around your personal sense of pique and umbrage, in precedence over the actual issues at hand, tells me all I need to know about you.(”he didn’t say thankyou! he didn’t say please!” – Pfft, whatever. Get over it.)

    Sanjay sahib, I don’t see much point in arguing with someone who is evidently not trained in how to conduct a reasoned debate. Instead of questioning my argument, you question my nationality and motives. And now my character! And then essentially repeat what you said before.

    I submit that my posts are there for everyone to see – so long as the moderator wishes. So are your replies. I have shown a “Personal sense of pique”? I respectfully disagree:

    All I said was to please wait for things to become clearer to emerge before extrapolating the past and jumping to conclusions. I also tried to propose alternative reasons for Brzezinski or Albright’s foreign policy. I am a political realist, and my intention was to bring in a realist perspective to what you presented.

    I leave it to the readers of this discussion to figure out who flew off the handle.

    Anyway, good luck with your posts 🙂

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