Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Quiet Indian Peace Bid on Kashmir

Just after the conclusion of the general elections and before the results were known, the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Kashmir, Satinder Lambah, made a speech in Srinagar laying out the most comprehensive peace plan India has ever made.

He said the speech reflected just his personal views but The Times of India's brief report by Indrani Baghchi (buried at the bottom of page 15 in my edition of the paper), said “the highest levels of government” were involved in crafting it.

The proposal is that that Line of Actual Control (LOC) become the de jure international border while India and Pakistan move to erase it for all practical purposes.

For that to happen, there would have to be a general demilitarization and normalization throughout Kashmir, and the winding up of terrorist training facilities in Pakistan. There would be no tariff or non-tariff barriers to trade and no constraints on the free passage of people or on development of transport infrastructure.

Presumably, somewhere along that continuum, the special constitutional provisions in effect on both sides of the border would be brought in line with the new realities.

What might give the proposal a chance of success is the changed regional dynamic resulting from the projected withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.

A significant element of the new dynamic has been the Pakistani response to the American effort to bribe the drug-running Haqqani terrorist network away from control by the ISI: Islamabad is now engaged in bombing the assets of its former client, inflicting heavy losses.

Other aspects include the energized Moscow-Beijing axis in the face of the situation in the Ukraine, Uighur terrorism in China and the tensions boiling up along Asia's eastern seaboard.

From West Asia shell-shocked by what can now be called the Arab Winter to China teetering on an economic precipice, there is a new sense of vulnerability throughout the continent.

That has caused erstwhile supporters (Saudi Arabia and China), to cool towards Pakistani sponsored “Islamic terrorism,” and even the ISI might have begun to see that if the Haqqanis can be turned into a Frankenstein’s monster, so can all its other proxies.

The wild card in all this, of course, is the British interest in continuing to control the $60 billion drug trade out of Afghanistan. That is the glue binding the ISI to British policy, and it remains to be seen if the new regional situation can weaken the bond. .

In the past, India-Pakistan peace initiatives have led to violent provocations to prevent progress. In the current circumstances, that will have to be more than the usual cross-border terrorism or attacks on consulates. It will have to be something of the order of 9/11 or 26/11, precipitating war. As I have noted before, there is evidence the British and their allies in the United States have been trying to set the scene for that.

Among the recent signs that something nasty is in the works is the disappearance from his Karachi residence of noted Indian gangster-terrorist Dawood Ibrahim. He can only be up to no good.

I do not think we will have to wait long to find out if we have chaos in South and Central Asia or a major move towards regional peace.

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