From Great Game to Great Cuckoo

The United States needs to court Indian support in Afghanistan.

Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid have an essay in the current issue of Foreign Affairs where they argue that the “crisis in Afghanistan and Pakistan is beyond the point where more troops will help. U.S. strategy must be to seek compromise with insurgents while addressing regional rivalries and insecurities.” [via Reuters blogs, linkthanks Pragmatic]

The thrust of the article is that Pakistan’s insecurities must be assuaged: for it fears the emergence of US-Afghan-Indian and Russian-Iranian alliances in Afghanistan. It proposes a whole host of measures to address this, but starts with a non-starter.

A first step could be the establishment of a contact group on the region authorized by the UN Security Council. This contact group, including the five permanent members and perhaps others (NATO, Saudi Arabia), could promote dialogue between India and Pakistan about their respective interests in Afghanistan and about finding a solution to the Kashmir dispute. [Foreign Affairs]

This is just a reformulation of the if the “if the peace in Kashmir compromises the war in Afghanistan” or “give ’em Kashmir, for stability’s sake” arguments.

For something that is on the top of the list of recommendations, the authors do not even consider why New Delhi would wish to sign on to such a plan. In fact, the authors fail to understand a strong vein of opinion prevailing in India that Afghanistan is a mess for the United States to sort out, and India would do well to stay out of it. In this situation, a suggestion that an international “contact group” get involved in settling the matter of Kashmir is likely to be met with—how should we say this politely—a certain resistance.

The authors claim this is necessary to convince the Pakistani army to change its mindset from seeking to acquire Kashmir to fighting the insurgency in NWFP and FATA. Really? Again, the authors fail to explain why India would care about this if it means having to give in to Pakistan’s territorial ambitions.

In fact, the biggest shortcoming of the Rubin-Rashid essay is that they implicitly dismiss the value of a US-India alliance in Afghanistan. Surely, the contention that the Pakistani army hates it is hardly a reason to dismiss the option entirely. Perhaps the UN Security Council could authorise a contact group that would help convince the Pakistanis on what is necessary for the stability of the region. If the contact group includes the IMF and the World Bank, so much the better.

6 thoughts on “From Great Game to Great Cuckoo”

  1. This looks like a return to a failed and incredibly stupid foreign policy of the previous decades. Given that a democratic administration is likely to take office in January, it could be that ideas like this will again gain prominence and value. There are a few major differences however-the most important being that India is not so easy to pressure anymore, and neither is the United States in a particularly strong position in the region.

  2. US public opinion will probably continue to favor India over Pakistan, as the news media frequently reminds us that the Pakistani government remains unable or unwilling to dislodge the Taleban and al-Queda from their side of the Afghanistani-Pakistani border. There are not many Democrats or Republicans here who would desire to influence Pakistan by applying pressure on India over the Kashmir territory. That would appear to be an appeasement of hostile Pakistani elements at the cost of a new potential ally in India. India has little to fear here. The same cannot be said for the U.S., unfortunately. We are mired in Afghanistan until further notice, as they say….

  3. So there it is:

    Obama: “….We should — try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they (Pakistan) can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants”.

    happy 2009 to you all, 😉

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