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US Afghanistan and Kashmir 


Z.G. Muhammad


The burial of the Kashmir Dispute without its resolution on the basis of justice and fair play is impossible. The changing strategic partnership or global equations cannot write an epitaph on the seventy-year-old dispute that continues to be recognized as an international problem and threat to peace in the region. Even, Stephen Cohen, despite his negative approach toward Kashmir recognizes ‘Kashmir could trigger off military response either by India or Pakistan that could escalate to an exchange of nuclear weapons’. (The South Asia Papers p 254 published 2016).  Since, the birth of the dispute as rightly said by Professor Akbar S Ahmed, “The politics of both the Kashmir and Palestine have drawn in regional and international powers.”
‘That if the Kashmir Dispute, will be put into deep freeze and abandoned to be given a burial at the international level. Moreover, if the United States uses Kashmir to coerce Islamabad to recognize New Delhi as an important stakeholder in Afghanistan.’ This discourse caught public imagination after the Trump administration took some Kashmir related decisions which his predecessors George Bush and Barrack Obama, despite lobbying by New Delhi had evaded.  The discourse became louder after Donald Trump announced his new Afghan policy and newspapers came up with screaming headlines like “Pakistan in the crosshairs of Trump’s Afghan strategy” and Afghan strategy could be a game changer for South Asia- and there were also subtle hints about the new policy having   its impact as well on Kashmir.
The announcement of the New Afghan Policy by the Donald Trump and scathing attack on Pakistan blaming it of ‘playing a double game by accepting American aid while giving safe havens to “Agents of chaos” who kill Afghan and NATO troops’  stirred reactions from major powers in the region.
On the expected lines, in the fast changing geopolitical scenario Pakistan in the region is finding itself diplomatically on a stronger wicket.  Soon after Trump’s statement China defended Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and asked the global community to acknowledge Islamabad’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism. It strengthened its stand by expressing its concerns directly to the State Department.  In a phone call, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to ‘value Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan and respect its sovereignty and security concerns’.  Russia instantly joined the new discourse. Calling Pakistan as a key player in the region   and making no bones about Pakistan role in Afghanistan Russian envoy Zamir said, “Putting pressure on Pakistan may seriously destabilize the region-wide security situation and result in negative consequences for Afghanistan.”
Many important international analysts reacting to Washington decision to stop Afghan related aid to Pakistan opined that the country can do without it.  Nadia Naviwala, Wilson Center Global Fellow and a former staff aide to a member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee wrote in an article three days back “A few hundred million dollars isn’t much of a stick anymore. The China-Pakistan relationship is now worth $110bn, with around $4bn expected this year. And those billions come easily without drama.” How New Delhi will behave itself in the emerging scenario, will it be as naïve as Pakistan was in fighting US war in Afghanistan? Or if Trump’s new Afghanistan policy meets its Waterloo much before it takes off, is not subject of this column. But if the US new Afghan policy is going to impact the Jammu and Kashmir problem and prospectus of its resolution.
True, the Jammu and Kashmir has borders contagious with Afghanistan. Moreover, Kashmir has had as strong cultural links with  Kabul as it had with the NWFP renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan. Nevertheless, there is no direct link between the crisis in Kabul and the Kashmir Dispute and its resolution. The ongoing Afghan crisis and the American involvement is a result of the 9/11 happenings as against the  Kashmir Dispute is rooted in the failure of  India, Pakistan, and UN   to execute the 1948 and 1949 Security Council resolutions sponsored by the United States guaranteeing exercising of the right to self-determination to the people of the state.
It was been none other than Washington that for the first time hyphenated the resolution of the Kashmir Dispute to the crisis in Afghanistan.  ‘In 2008, a prestigious US journal Foreign Affairs published an article From Great Game to Grand Bargain – Ending chaos in Afghanistan and Pakistan’ by Barnett R Rubin and Ahmed Rashid. In this article, the duo had asserted that peace to Afghanistan passed through the gateway of Kashmir.  In an interview with the MSNBC Barrack Obama endorsing what the two authors had said that his administration would encourage India to solve the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan so that Islamabad can better cooperate with the US on Afghanistan. The idea that peace passed through Kashmir was further strengthened by the task-force formed by US-based Asia Society. It had called on Obama administration to find a lasting settlement of Kashmir dispute and encourage behind the scene efforts to de-escalate tension between India and Pakistan over the issue. The report had been brought out under the co-chairmanship of Thomas Pickering once US ambassador in India and Barnett Rubin Strategic Expert.    Commenting on Donal Trump’s new Afghan policy Raja Mohan director, Carnegie India    wrote in the Indian Express on 24-8-2017 that ‘it required intensive diplomacy from India to fend off the initiatives of the Obama Administration   proposition that the answer to Afghanistan might lie in promoting a resolution of Pakistan’s Kashmir dispute with India.’ Despite, New Delhi strongly lobbying in Washington against hyphenating the resolutions of Kashmir Dispute from peace Afghanistan, it continued to part of US Afghan policy. There can be no denying that Obama initially might have been sincere in seeing the resolution of Kashmir as a gateway for ending the Afghan crisis but dovetailing the Kashmir dispute in the New Afghan Policy and using as coercive tactics would not be a fair game.
Instead, of seeing the sponsor of the UN resolutions betraying its commitments people in Jammu and Kashmir want to see Donald Trump’s what Mike Pence described ‘energetic leadership and extraordinary deal-making to bear on lessening tensions in the region and resolving the Kashmir Dispute’ – recognizing the fundamental right of people of the State. That undoubtedly will be a  step forward towards peace in Afghanistan and South-Asia.
Published in Greater Kashmir On 28-August 2017   

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