U.S. Waiting for Invitation to Mediate 47-Year Dispute over Kashmir

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U.S. Waiting for Invitation to Mediate 47-Year Dispute Over Kashmir

By M.M. Ali

There is hardly an international forum dealing with Asia where the Kashmir dispute does not emerge as a major issue. In almost all cases, human rights violations by the Indian occupying forces in the Valley and the political promise of a plebiscite made to the Kashmiris by the U.N. are recalled. This exercise not only embarrasses New Delhi but has started annoying outside powers, including the United States. However, it underlines the seriousness of the case, especially in the light of the nuclear capability of both powers, India and Pakistan, feuding over Kashmir.

Kashmir took center stage at the Asia Society's September conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss its Study Mission report: "South Asia and the United States after the Cold War." In her keynote address, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Robin L. Raphel said, "Kashmir is at once a political, economic, law and order, security and social issue."

Current U.S. Thinking

Explaining current U.S. thinking on the subject, she observed: "A military victory cannot be won by any of the parties...Political processes in Kashmir must be transparent so the inhabitants genuinely see and understand that they are in full and unencumbered possession of the political authority to which they are entitled." Answering a question, she replied: "We [the United States] are willing to mediate, provided we are invited to do so."

Kashmiris in fact have asked the United States repeatedly to intervene to bring about a cessation of hostilities and to help resolve the dispute that is taking a very heavy toll in human lives.

Pakistan also has invited the U.S. to mediate. India alone has shied away from third-party intervention, insisting instead on bilateral talks with Pakistan. However, historically such bilateral talks have produced no results.

The stronger posture that the U.S. appears to be taking in its regional policy toward South Asia, of which Kashmir is a part, generates hope. It does not, however, mean that the world is on the verge of a Kashmir settlement or on the threshold of lasting peace in the area. India may never issue that invitation for U.S. mediation.

As to whether the growing nuclear and ballistic missile capability of both India and Pakistan is of enough concern to move the U.S. to use more concerted efforts to help remove the primary cause of friction between India and Pakistan, Raphel is unclear.

"A military victory cannot be won by any of the parties."

U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's recent offer to mediate the dispute did not draw any public response from either New Delhi or Islamabad. Without public support from the major powers, particularly the United States, Boutros-Ghali cannot be an effective mediator. It was in this context that Pakistani Foreign Minister Sardar Asif Ahmed Ali, in his own address to the Asia Society meeting, asked for U.S. assistance in the resolution of the increasingly emotional, and dangerous, Kashmir dispute.

It came after President Clinton's successful orchestration of Israeli-Jordanian talks that culminated in the White House handshake between King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. That event conveyed one sure message across the globe: if the United States, by virtue of its unique position in world affairs today, has the will to make things happen, all major frictions and disputes can be peacefully resolved. …