Holbrooke hotel

The biggest losers of Obama’s potential Kashmir plans will be the Kashmiri people in India

C Raja Mohan is right: India “has everything to gain by embracing the essence of Obama’s idea—bringing stability to the region between the Indus and the Hindu Kush.” Although, as he goes on to argue, “that in turn would create a basis for the necessarily difficult discussion with the Obama administration on the appropriate tactics to achieve the shared strategic objectives with the US.”

The problem, of course, is that President Obama comes into office with a particularly bad idea—that feeding Pakistan’s ambitions over its dispute with India over Kashmir will somehow help in addressing the Taliban and al-Qaeda threat in Afghanistan & Pakistan. It is possible that the saner counsel will prevail in an administration touted to be relatively more cerebral than its predecessor and that it will throw its resources to solving the central problem—Pakistan. The administration’s new point-man, possibly Richard Holbrooke, would do well to solicit Indian military support to secure Afghanistan, and engage other influential nations to work out a MacArthur plan for Pakistan.

In the meantime, though, President Obama’s ‘plans’ will have a negative impact as far as Jammu & Kashmir’s long-awaited return to normalcy is concerned.

Already, the Lashkar-e-Taiba has let it be known that it welcomes the international community’s intervention in Kashmir. It would have the world believe that it has no cause beyond Kashmir and that it only took to terrorism because the international community didn’t support its peaceful struggle. (You are supposed to ignore the little business of its declaration of war against Indians, Jews and westerners; and that it never did participate in any peaceful struggle).

If the eager-to-please-the-new-boss statements of the British foreign secretary could gladden the hearts of terrorists, then surely, separatist politicians would rejoice at the omens of a bailout. The Hurriyat is likely to remain uncompromising—even after being completely discredited after last month’s elections—in the hope that a US intervention will keep them afloat. To the extent that this hampers Omar Abdullah government’s democratic mandate to engage in dialogue with the central government, this is a negative for the people of the state.

And in the aftermath of Pakistan’s decision to brazen it out over its role in the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, the Indian government is unlikely to move forward on the outcome of the secret bilateral diplomacy over the Kashmir issue. The current tensions make it harder for the Indian government to proceed with the important task of winding down the security presence in the state. And even if it is comfortable doing so, India would be justified in holding it back pending greater clarity on the outcome of its discussions with the Obama administration. What India would have done anyway might end up having to wait until it could count as one of Mr Holbrooke’s achievements.

As Professor Raja Mohan concludes, it would indeed be a pity of a lack of strategic imagination prevents India from exploiting the opportunities for peace in the subcontinent arising from President Obama’s plans. But it is already a pity that those plans risk prolonging the misery of the people of Jammu & Kashmir, even after they loudly signalled that they had had enough. It would be a greater pity if the risk becomes reality.

13 thoughts on “Holbrooke hotel”

  1. To what degree do you believe the Kashmiri Muslims (I assume the Pandits would prefer it) wish to stay with India, if any at all?

    Do you believe their belief in democracy means a belief in India or is it simply another way for voicing their opinion of separatism?

  2. Good commentary.

    Its anyway too late (or so I hope) for the UPA to be taking major decisions w.r.t. J&K when its headed for polls a few months down. Leave the J&K issue to the next GoI.

    To what degree do you believe the Kashmiri Muslims (I assume the Pandits would prefer it) wish to stay with India, if any at all?

    Good question. I don’t know.

    What I do know is that what they are proposing to do (violate the territorial integrity of India) is unconstitutional and democracy or not, until they change the constitution legitimately, their separatism should not find favor in the rest of law-abiding India.

    In any case, the J&K issue remains unsettled precisely because a third of the old princely state remains in Pak’s illegal hold. THAT is the reason why we even deign to talk about the status of J&K with parties outside our borders.

    JMTs of course.
    /Have a nice day.

  3. Obama’s linking up of the Kashmir issue with Afghanistan is a stroke of brilliancy, which should be milked by India for whatever that offers.

    The fact is both Kashmiris and Pashtuns are similar in several ways.

    Both of them are divided by a totally artificial line which cuts their communities right in two. And both the communities have suffered a lot as they were caught in the cross-fire between warring powers.

    Unlike Kashmiris, Pashtuns have a far more ancient and non-violent independence movement which was entirely based on the principles of secular democracy. They deserve no less than the Kashmiris. In fact, the question of sovereignity of Pashtuns has a lot more bearing on the USA than that of the Kashmiris.

    No Afghan government has ever recognized the validity of the Durand line. In fact, Afghanistan was the only country not to welcome Pakistan into the UNO.

    The issue of a united and independent Kashmir is related to a united and independent Pashtunistan. It depends on how much of independence can be afforded by the countries in question, and how this should be achieved.

  4. Heh, we’d better be wary that Holbrooke Hotel may be like the Hanoi Hilton, if he tries to make us “an offer that we can’t refuse” – especially given his track record of hardball in imposing war on Yugoslavia. I’m reminded of a brief memory from that period, 10 years ago:

    Back in 1998, when CNN first upgraded their website and started their chat boards, I was an avid participant there, where one could even find assorted journalists and academics lounging online.

    We used to have some heated discussions about geo-politics. I remember one such debate over the headline issue at the time – the opportunistic bombing of Belgrade by the war-mongering Clinton and Albright. I angrily denounced Albright (whom I always referred to by her original foreign-born name, Madlenka Korbel), complaining that she was an extra-territorialist Atlanticist whose own personal past had prejudiced her into imposing war on Serbia. I also made pointed comparisons to the 1991 Gulf War and how the United States had built up Saddam’s war machine into the menace it became, before bludgeoning it into submission after it chomped on America’s little Kuwaiti poodle. A Malayalee living in Kuwait rebuked me, complaining, “You and I share a common name – a Mahabharata figure who was famous for his foresight! How can you then be so blind to the suffering Saddam has caused your fellow Indians here!”

    Before I could retort back, another poster named Condoleezza curiously inquired as to what our name meant, upon which I had to summarize the Mahabharata story for her. A regular on the forum, she preferred to stay out of our acrimonious debates and never used to voice any opinions of her own, only asking occasional questions. I figured she was some Mississippi grandma visiting the forum to pass the time. It was only later to my chagrin that other forum participants mentioned to me she was a political science professor from Stanford.

    It was only a couple of years later during the 2001 US Presidential campaign that the memory of that exchange came back to me, as I read about George W Bush’s new foreign policy advisor, and how she was actually a former student of Josef Korbel‘s.

    Heh, an odd set of coincidences, but a true story.

  5. sanjay – your memory is awesome. i can hardly recall the groceries my wife dispatches me to buy, let alone an online discussion i had ten years ago.

  6. Why is india’s lack of strategic thinking (let alone imagination) a pity?

    It only reflects the muddleheadedness and lack of vision of the average indian, who votes in an oven when what it needs is a baker!

    We have seen the enemy: it is us. Not the US.

  7. Trilok,
    Well, I remember some other comments I’d made at the time, about how Atlanticists/European extra-territorialists as the oldest and most entrenched among ethnic special interest lobbies, have sought to dominate US foreign policy through the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, by peddling myths about Wilsonian “enlightenment”. I felt that “Albright” used her status as a woman to vault herself into the SecState role, despite misgivings about her Atlanticist leanings.
    I noted with anger how Albright and her protege Holbrooke had sought to bulldoze past a cautious Colin Powell to push for a military solution in the Balkans. I’d then commented about how I felt that White Southerners/Jacksonians and African-Americans were the two historically orphaned communities of America, which needed to embrace each other to emancipate themselves from an Atlanticist-led special interest coalition that sought to vassalize US power and foreign policy in the service of European interests. It felt rather ironic later on to see Dubya and Rice bulldozing their way past the cautious Powell, while beating their war-drums against Saddam.

    I’m hoping that Obama will damp down these partisan oscillations in US foreign policy, which he shows potential signs of doing by keeping on people like GatesIII, who is one of the few Dronacharyas in the Jacksonian Kaurava camp. Hopefully Obama won’t totally ostracize fellow AfAm Condi, and that she might continue to play a backroom role in foreign policy. Her breakthrough in relations with India will help the US more than hinder it, and the new admin has to sustain the momentum there, rather than abandon it to the pro-Chinese leanings of the Atlanticist lobby. If Obama’s truly as post-partisan as he claims to be, then it’s better that he doesn’t yield to cries for a witch-hunt from the pro-vendetta lynchmob baying for Bush’s blood.

  8. Sanjay:
    Great to read about your online discussions from 98.
    I only knew then that there was something called internet or web where you could get a lot of pictures from!!!

  9. sorry for the offtopic comment above..
    But I would definitely appreciate more of your takes from those discussions..

  10. Am curious to know what would be these backdoor discussions that are supposedly going on between GOI and state actors in Pak!!

  11. About Rajamohan’s quote:

    bringing stability to the region between the Indus and the Hindu Kush.

    Everyone agrees with this. But what kind of stability is in India’s interest? A stable (even terror-free) Pakistan and Afghanistan? Or a stable Afghanistan with a greatly weakened Pakistan? A balkanized Pakistan whose key breakaway states are not hostile to India? Or something else altogether?

    Finally even if India and the US agree on a common goal what about neighbors like Iran, Russia and China?

    Personally I think India’s interests are best served by a balkanized Pakistan with key allies among the breakaway states, or at least a greatly weakened Pakistan. Not sure though, if the US under Obama – or many Indians – would want the same 🙂

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