In the Arena

Indian Summons

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Laura Rozen has an absolutely fascinating report at the Foreign Policy website about India’s campaign not to be part of Richard Holbrooke’s special envoy brief. Apparently, the Indians were alarmed by Barack Obama’s suggestion, in a late October interview with me, that there needed to be a regional solution to the Afghan problem, including a U.S.-induced resolution of the fierce, 60-year Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

There was ultimate good strategic sense behind Obama’s thinking: Kashmir is at the heart of Pakistan’s support for various Islamic extremist groups, including the  Afghan Taliban. It was the original “k” in the acronym that accounts for Pakistan’s name (the “P” stood for Punjab and the “A” for the Afghan-border northwest tribal areas), but was grabbed by India in a dodgy bit of business during the partition mayhem of 1947. As far as the Indians are concerned, there’s nothing to negotiate. ADD: Reader pneogy offers this Stimson Center link for Kashmir background.

Rozen’s piece is interesting on several counts: It shows India’s increasing sophistication about the Washington national-lobby game (which was pioneered and perfected in previous generations by the Israelis and Taiwanese). And it demonstrates just how difficult Holbrooke’s brief is going to be: Obama was caught in the public commission of a truth–for Afghanistan to settle down on a long-term basis, Pakistan is going to have to turn away from sponsoring Islamic extremist groups…which won’t happen until there is some resolution of the historic Kashmir mess. For the moment, though, that will have to be done surreptitiously, if at all. One wonders how many more decades it takes before the world sorts out the problems caused by the feckless drawing of borders by European colonialists.

More on Pakistan: The Washington Post has a good assessment of the emerging Obama policy toward Pakistan–continue the effective Predator strikes against terrorist targets in the Northwest Frontier areas on the one hand, while rebalancing U.S. aid to Pakistan, away from the untrammeled military aid of the Bush Administration, most of which was used by the Pakistanis to build up their arms on the Indian front, and toward more economic and humanitarian development projects:

Bush’s focus on military aid to a Pakistani government that was led by an army general until August eventually drew complaints in both countries that much of the funding was spent without accountability or, instead of being used to root out terrorists, was diverted to forces intended for a potential conflict with India. A study in 2007 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that economic, humanitarian and development assistance under Bush amounted to no more than a quarter of all aid, less than in most countries.

The criticism helped provoke a group of senators who now have powerful new roles — Joseph R. Biden Jr., Clinton and Obama — to co-sponsor legislation last July requiring that more aid be targeted at political pluralism, the rule of law, human and civil rights, and schools, public health and agriculture.