Friday, May 22, 2009

Ignoring Kashmir no longer an option: Western Media

NASEER A GANAI

Srinagar, May 21: Barely days after the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was voted back to power in New Delhi, two leading newspapers of the west, Times London and the New York Times, have asked the Government of India to increase the chances of peace with Pakistan by resolving Kashmir dispute.

 On 20 May 2009 the influential New York Times termed Kashmir as “festering sore.” It has mentioned Delhi and Kashmir in the same page asking the new government of India to initiate arms control, solve Kashmir, and solve the issues of water.
 An Editorial in the newspaper says “Ignoring Kashmir is no longer an option,” adding, “India is essential to what Pakistan will do. New Delhi exercised welcome restraint when it did not attack Pakistan after the November 2008 attacks in Mumbai by Pakistani-based extremists. But tensions remain high, and the Pakistani Army continues to view India as its main adversary. India should take the lead in initiating arms control talks with Pakistan and China. It should also declare its intention to stop producing nuclear weapons fuel, even before a proposed multinational treaty is negotiated. That would provide leverage for Washington and others to exhort Pakistan to do the same.”
 The editorial further said: “It is past time for India — stronger both economically and in international stature — to find a way to resolve tensions with Pakistan over Kashmir. If that festering sore cannot be addressed directly, then — as Stephen P. Cohen, a South Asia expert at the Brookings Institution suggests — broader regional talks on environmental and water issues might be an interim way to find common ground. Ignoring Kashmir is no longer an option.”
 On May 19 in Times London, the influential UK paper the chief foreign commentator Bronwen Maddox has said the careful, secular tone of Congress is the necessary ingredient for progress in the dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. “India has stuck to the line that this is a bilateral row in which outside comment is unwelcome. The stand-off, with the line of control acting as a de facto border, largely suits it,” he said in his comment “Indian poll increases chances of peace with Pakistan over Kashmir.”
 He says Pakistan, where parts of the army are obsessed with “liberating” the Indian-controlled section of the territory, desperately lobbies for an outside broker (meaning the United Nations). “It has spent more military effort than it can afford on fuelling the obsession.” 
 Maddox says that the each side is deluding itself. “Pakistan is wrong to believe that the largely Muslim Kashmiris in India, if given the choice, would join Pakistan. Many Kashmiris, when asked in polls, have said that what they want is more autonomy from India. They have not said, on the whole, that they want to join Pakistan — and given its turmoil, why would they?”
 The commentator says India should consider the value of settling the dispute, with US or UN help if necessary. “That would begin to wean the Pakistani Army off its obsession. India, hardly as peaceful itself as these extraordinary elections have implied, is surrounded by conflict: Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal — and Pakistan. It could do a lot to help to nudge its troubled neighbour away from the Kashmir fixation and towards the real crises of extremism and the economy. The rescue of Pakistan, in the end, will depend partly on India,” he says.  He adds that India, too, would be the great winner from any step that makes Pakistan more like a normal country.

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