Experts hopeful of Kashmir resolution

May 13 2005

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WASHINGTON, May 12: President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will find a solution to the Kashmir issue within the parameters they have laid down, three US-based experts on South Asia have hoped. Rafiq Dossani of Stanford University, Robert Hathaway, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Centre, and Michael Krepon, President Emeritus of the Stimson Centre, were cautiously optimistic about the resolution of an issue which has already caused three wars between India and Pakistan and threatened to lead to a nuclear conflict in 1998.

Teresita Schaffer, another South Asia expert and a former US ambassador, agreed with them but warned that the people of Pakistan and India needed to recognize that any substantive outcome would be less than what they expected. The experts also pointed out that India had rejected any redrawing of boundaries as a possible solution.

The discussion at Washington’s Henry L. Stimson Centre, included the conclusions in a book titled ‘Prospects for Peace in South Asia,’ edited by Mr Dossani and another scholar, Henry Rowen. The Kashmir issue, according to the book, is ‘enduringly rooted in national identity, religion and human rights. It has also influenced the politicization of Pakistan’s Army, religious radicalism and nuclearization in both countries”.

The book, while acknowledging the risks, is “optimistic about peace in South Asia”. The key argument is that many of the domestic concerns that were fuelling the conflict, such as territorial integrity in both countries and civilian-military rapprochement in Pakistan, have abated.

Mr Dossani, a US-based Indian scholar, said that in both Pakistan and India rulers wanted to establish a strong central government, sometimes at the expense of their provinces and states. He said religion was a uniting factor in Pakistan but there were other factors that were dividing the country. Unlike some other countries, he said, the army in Pakistan had generally tried to have a political face to its rule.

He said the domestic changes that had taken place in both Pakistan and India indicated that the prospects for peace were quite encouraging.

Mr Dossani observed that President Musharraf and his predecessor in the army, Gen Jehangir Karamat, supported a secular Pakistan. He said because of the predominant position of the military within Pakistan, its civilian bureaucracy was dependent on the army’s support but Pakistan’s Foreign Service was different and had ‘tremendous depth’.

Mr Dossani said historically the US had limited interest in South Asia and only got involved to manage a crisis. Robert Hathaway said he was ‘moderately optimistic’ of the outcome of the peace process between Pakistan and India. The chances of success were ‘less than 50 percent’ but better than in recent past, he added.

He said India recognized that it would not be able to achieve big power status without reaching accommodation with Pakistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, was feeling on the defensive due to India’s rise and its army recognized that reaching some accommodation with India now would be more favourable than in the future.