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US Shift on Kargil - The Undertones

Diplomatic Correspondent

Very early in the Kargil war, Karl Inderfurth, US Assistant Secretary of State stated that, “the Indians are not going to cede this territory. They have to depart, and they will depart either voluntarily or because the Indias will take them out,” Indian media described it as the first outspoken statement by US in the last fifty-two years. Washington also admitted involvement of mercenaries and the role of Pakistan army regulars. US President in his joing statement  reiterated “the line of control in Kashmir be respected by both parties, in accordance with the 1972 Shimla accord.” American Government also issued a statement condemning cross-border terrorism.

There is virtually euphoria among the Indians over US role in Kargil. They have started perceiving it as a paradigm shift in the US strategy in South Asia. Mr Jaswant Singh, Minister of external affairs has  seen “strategic shift taking place towards India.” The union home minister, Mr LK Advani said Kargil was a turning point in Indo-US ties. He cited bus diplomacy and the statesmanship displayed by Mr Jaswant Singh for this change.

Indian policy makers, perceiving shift in US attitude towards India argue that cold war certitudes which defined US relations  with Pakistan and China are beginning to disappear. New concerns about an Asian balance and rise of religious terrorism in Pakistan have begun to impinge on US thinking. For explaining the theory of paradigm shift at economic level, India’s impressive economic performance as contrasted with Pakistan’s deepening economic crisis are also cited. It is stressed that US is perceiving Pakistan as a failed state. It is also argued that US has realised  that economic sanctions against India cause direct export losses as well as the loss of clientele to its other business, hitting economic growth.

Changing in polarities in the Afghan region are also mentioned for  decline of Pakistan’s role in US foreign policy perceptions. For tapping Central Asian oil and gass reserves, US no longer looks to Pakistan as the favourite, it is rather a liability. US is trying to mend relations with Iran and is also pressurising Taliban regime to reach an agreement with the opposition alliance. Even Saudi-Iranian relations are improving. Pakistan’s role in this scenario  gets gradually marginalised. There is also growing reputation criticism of Clinton’s appeasement policy towards China and bias against India. India becomes US’s new favourite. Reports are quoted the US shared sensitive intelligence data with India and acquiesced in India’s decision to make it public.

Is there really a positive shift in America’s policy towards India? Why did US take so forthright a stand.

US’s positive sand towards India was only Kargil specific, restricted to restoring status quo ante at LoC. Even on Kargil, though US and UN Military observers group (a US shadow group) were well aware of what was happening in Kargil for the last two years. It did not inform India unlike in 1987 when US gave full details to Pakistan about Operation Brasstacks and warned New Delhi against any escalating measure. Not only that US role in escalating Kargil has not been above board. A report carried by the prestigious news agency, ADNI is alarming. It says, quoting reports, that around the time Gen Mushraff was visiting Skardu,  preparatory to the massive infiltration, a special US commando team was seen in Pakistan. “The team may well have been assisting the Pakistan Army assemble Pusto-speaking guerrilla fighters many of whom are known to be in the pay of CIA since the days of the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.This suspicion arises from the fact that the infiltrators used much the same tactics as did the CIA-trained Afghan fighters in the highlands of Afghanistans,” the report adds.

Stephen  Cohen, a US think-tank says that end of stalemate in Kargil was limited victory for India and limited for Pakistan, “Both sides won and lost”. US took no hostile or damaging steps against Pakistan. America forced a commitment on India that it will not cross LOC. India soldiers suffered huge losses because of this.

US may not have taken even a forthright stand on respect for LoC, but the aggression was too blatant. Also in the absence of minimalist position it could lose mediatory role. Even while not criticising Pakistan, it has gained positive leverage in India. This has dangerous implications, considering that despite end of cold war there has been persistent American diplomatic activism on Kashmir indicating consistency in US position.

Second gain for America has been that it has pushed Kashmir to the centre stage with itself as the mediator. The joint statement of Clinton and Sharif was emphatic on this. It said, “he (Clinton) would take a personal interest in encouraging an expeditious resumption and intensification of those bilateral effors, once the sanctity of the Line of Control has been fully restored.” Prof Robert Wirsingh, a US think tank and a collaborator of Kashmir study Group report said with Kargil US has acquired the status of a mediator.

“This (the Kargil conflict) will be dragged out with formal additional participant in Washington. You may not call it mediation but facilitation of mediators. Kargil has given gains that Siachen never acquired,” he adds.

Karl Inderfurth made two significant statements in  an interview to Washington Post in the aftermath of Kargil. He said that Vajpayee had said recently “we want to permanently resolve the Kashmir problem”. Inderfurth added, “we hope at appropriate time India will sign CTBT because India has determined it is in its national interest to do so”.-------------- Inder Malhotra, a leading political analyst says that US wants a quid pro quo for better relations most probably in nuclear field especialy in the form of signature on CTBT.

US has been persuing its agenda on Kashmir and CTBT, irrespctive of Indian interests. It has sent Joan Rohlfing, senior advisor for national security to US energy secretary on a six month deputation to its embassy in Delhi with effect from September 1. She has been working on non-proliferation issues for the last twelve years. She will be supporting Ambassador Celeste on non-proliferation issues and her first step on non-proliferation is to get India sign CTBT. She comes to India, a month before the important Vieanna Conference on CTBT. The indications from US are that its second step after CTBT would be to force India and Pakistan to reach a settlement on Kashmir in accordance with Shimla accord and UN resolutions. This is US’s real gameplan while playing a supportive stance on Kargil. For Indian policy-makers it is important to bear in mind that US will not allow Pakistan to collapse or even come under the shadow of a military dominant India. Thus any US mediatory role will likely seek to safeguard Pakistani interests vis-a-vis India. For the sake of India it is not going to armtwist it to accept a Kashmir settlement on Indian terms. Despite its blatant aggression, US administration showed its readiness to bail out Pakistan economy by offering it the IMF loan and make extra political effort to lift US sanctions against India.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Pakistan's Role

Kargil 1999

 

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