Thursday, May 21, 2009

Kashmir in Holbrooke's agenda

US Is Problem, Not Solution To Any Problem: Prof Amitabh Matoo
Naseer A Ganai 
Awantipora, May 20: Former vice chancellor of Jammu University Prof. Amitabh Matoo on Wednesday said lobbying by strong Indian diaspora, nuclear deal, and US sensitivity toward Indian concerns after the Mumbai terror attacks pulled back Kashmir from the agenda of the US envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke.
Prof Matoo, however, said India and Kashmir would continue to be in the sub-text of Richard Holbrooke’s agenda. 
He described New Delhi’s reaction towards possible inclusion of India or Kashmir in Holbrooke’s mandate as knee-jerk and said New Delhi shouldn’t have reacted the way it did. The United States, he said, was not going take away anything from India which India was not willing to give.
Prof Matto said the government of India should take lead to resolve Kashmir issue bilaterally if it doesn’t want rest of the world to intervene, while predicting possibility of an Indo-Pak dialogue in next three to four months.
Prof. Matoo, who delivered first lecture in Khaldunia Lecture Series at the Islamic University of Science and Technology on “US policy towards South Asia” said there was need to transform Kashmir conflict by restoring to people on both sides of the border their dignity and political power without touching the issue of territoriality. Elaborating, he said, the United States could only nudge India and Pakistan to have dialogue, but it would depend on India and Pakistan to create common initiative by demilitarizing the both sides of Jammu and Kashmir and invest in institution building without addressing the issue of sovereignty.
Professor Mattoo who serves on the Governing Council of Pugwash, the Nobel Prize winning NGO, and is Director of the India-Afghanistan Foundation (established by the governments of India and Afghanistan), said the issue of sovereignty would inflame passions in both India and Pakistan. Prof. Matoo said there was possibility of the dialogue between India and Pakistan over Kashmir issue in next three to four months.
Professor Mattoo was, till recently, a member of India’s National Security Council’s Advisory Board and was also a member of the task force constituted by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Global Strategic Developments.
In his lecture he was critical of the US foreign policy towards South Asia and described it as short-sighted, skewed and lacking sophistication. “We need to address our problems together. The United States is more of a problem than a solution,” he said and termed compartmentalizing the region like Af-Pak, as contemptuous, highly patronizing and without any vision. He said if the present US president Barack Obama who sees himself domestically as successor of Franklin Roosevelt doesn’t take a drastic course correction, then the US policy would continue to be catastrophic having potential of producing thousands of human drones in the South Asia.
The FDR, Prof Matoo said, was the only American president, in the past seventy years, who wanted to genuinely have a farsighted policy towards South and the World during his 12 years of presidency. He however said despite being inspired by the FDR and his foreign policy commonly known as New Deal, president Obama vision has not extended to his foreign policy particularly when it comes to South Asia.
He said the president Obama reached out to Muslims in Turkey and had some nice words for Iran as well, he spoke on disarmament in Prague but South Asia has so far escaped him.
The president Obama, he said, could live up to the legacy of the FDR if he goes back to the vision of the FDR and stops viewing South Asia through prism of cold war.
Prof Matoo said the President Obama has an opportunity as well as challenge in the South Asia. He said pouring money, troops and drones would not help the region of over a billion people. “But investing in stakeholders who have same vision for the South Asia as Obama has for his own country could help in changing the course in the region,” he said.
He said post September 11 there was growing realization in the US that the US hegemony couldn’t be assured through traditional means. Prof Matoo quoted some Pakistani diplomats who have been all praise for Taliban rule in Afghanistan and believe that only US exit from the region was guarantee of peace.
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