Obama Silent on Kashmir Despite Devastating Conflict -- And Solution Has Been Outlined For Years
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There are lots of dangerous places in this world: Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Bolivia, Iran, Palestine, Yemen, and Somalia to name a few. But there is only one that could destabilize a large part of the globe and end up killing tens of millions of people. And yet for reasons of state, that is the one place the Obama administration will not talk about: Kashmir.
This region has sparked three wars between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. It is currently in the midst of serious political upheaval. And it is central to reducing tensions in Central and South Asia.
None of these facts should surprise Obama. While running for office in 2008 he explicitly called for a solution to Kashmir. “It won’t be easy, but it is important,” he told Joe Klein of Time magazine.
Given that India and Pakistan came within a hair’s breadth of a full-scale nuclear confrontation during the 1999 Kargil incident, the importance seems obvious. According to a recent study in Scientific American, such an exchange would kill and maim untold millions, flood the surrounding region with nuclear fallout, and create a “nuclear winter” for part of the globe.
Kashmir also fuels extremists in the region -- both Hindu and Islamic -- which in turn destabilizes Pakistan and Afghanistan. The conflict has already killed between 50,000 and 80,000 people, “disappeared” several thousand others, seen thousands imprisoned and tortured, and subjected millions of Kashmiris to an onerous regime of occupation, with laws drawn straight from Britain’s colonial past.
Why then would President Obama remain silent on the subject, particularly since the outlines of a solution have been in place since 2007?
Commenting on Obama’s recent trip to Asia, journalist Robert Kaplan says that the visit, in geopolitical terms, was about “one challenge: the rise of China on land and sea.” Indeed, this past year Washington has hurled one challenge after another at Beijing. The United States strongly backed Japan over its recent dust-up with Chinese fishing vessels in the East China Sea. Washington also intervened between China and several Southeast Asian nations over tensions around the Spratly and Paracel islands. The United States and South Korea recently carried out naval maneuvers close to China’s shores, Washington announced new arms sales to Taiwan, and during the recent G20 meetings in Seoul, Obama tried to pin the blame for a global currency crisis on Beijing.
Although Washington denies it has any plans to “surround” China with U.S. allies, that seems to be exactly what it is doing when it courts Indonesia, tightens its alliance with Japan, and sets up new military bases in Australia. But the jewel in this anti-Chinese crown is India, and Washington will do whatever it takes to bring New Delhi on board.
The Obama administration has already endorsed the Bush administration’s 1-2-3 Agreement that allows India to violate the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Not only does this agreement undermine one of the world’s most important nuclear treaties, but, in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, Pakistan warned that the agreement “threatens to increase the chances of a nuclear arms race in the sub-continent.”
While in India, Obama announced that his administration would end most “dual-use” technology restrictions, allowing India to buy material that could end up enhancing its military. The United States also agreed to sell $5.8 billion in military transport planes to New Delhi.
But of all these, the decision to avoid Kashmir may be the most dangerous and destabilizing.
Background to the Conflict