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The Michael Krepon Chat

'The LoC is not the Berlin Wall'

Michael Krepon, president of the Henry Stimson Center, Washington, in an illuminating chat.

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 5:57 IST)
Hello Rediff, this is Michael Krepon.

Johnson (Thu Jul 15 1999 5:56 IST)
Mr Krepon: Can you suggest a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 5:59 IST)
Johnson: It's not for me to suggest a lasting solution for the Kashmir dispute. Indian and Pakistani leaders, citizens, and Kashmiris have to step up to the plate. Otherwise, the loudest voices will be those with guns behind them.

Harish (Thu Jul 15 1999 5:23 IST)
Mr Krepon, the dialogue between Nawaz Sharief and Clinton is a waste. What use do you see of dialogues between two nations when one doesn't want peace?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:2 IST)
Harish: Do you really think the meeting between Nawaz & Clinton was a waste? My sense is that Nawaz's meetings in Beijing and Washington were helpful in ending this regrettable chapter.

Rajnish (Thu Jul 15 1999 4:18 IST)
Do you see a fallout of America being involved in every conflict taking place, be it Kosovo or Iraq? What is the popular opinion of the people in the US? Do you think that playing Big Daddy may have some serious repercussions for the US because it has made a lot of unpopular gaffes. And being a target of terrorists from various countries isn't an enviable position for an country even if it's a superpower.

Majid (Thu Jul 15 1999 3:55 IST)
Mr Krepon, what do you think is the solution to the Kashmir problem? I mean we have seen time and time again that Pakistan doesn't really wish the conflict to end because its generals and rich, corrupt politicians see Kashmir as the only issue they can use to blind the public to wider issues like poverty, lack of education and basic amenities. Do you see an end to this problem anytime in the next 50 years?

Girish (Thu Jul 15 1999 3:52 IST)
Mr Krepon, will the US sever its ties with Pakistan, at least of the military aid kind after the fracas caused by them in Kargil?

Hari (Thu Jul 15 1999 3:49 IST)
Hi Mr Krepon! What is the attitude of Washington about India's nuclear status in the aftermath of the Kargil fiasco conducted by Pakistan, do they now realise that the sleeping dragon is the biggest danger facing them after the Cold War? The dragon of the Islamic fundamentalists against them?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:11 IST)
Rajnish: Most US citizens and politicians have zero interest in being the world's policeman. It's an expensive job. You get to visit many out of the way places where people hate each other and blow each other up, and solutions are remote. Most US citizens would rather improve public education, lower the cost of medicine, and fix our political system.

Majid: I'm not offering solutions to the Kashmir dispute in this chat. That's your job! I would only say that the passage of time and the acquisition of nuclear and missile capabilities is making this problem more urgent and more difficult to solve.

Girish: You are living in a world of paradox. If the US were to sever its military ties with Pakistan, the result would be a far worse situation in Kashmir.

Hari: The view from DC is that India has badly complicated its security dilemmas by taking the bomb out of the basement and exploding it at Pokhran. In what ways, exactly, has India's position been strengthened by overtly demonstrating its nuclear weapon capability?

Princess (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:6 IST)
Hello Mr Krepon! Why do you think Pak undertook this adventure that it could never have won?

Bashir Sadiq (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:10 IST)
Hello, Dr Krepon. Do you think the Kargil misadventure was conceived by the Pakistan military without the knowledge and participation of the Sharief government?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:18 IST)
Princess: Great handle! Why did Pakistan do it? As payback for Siachen; to weaken India's grasp on Ladakh and Siachen; to take Indian casualties; to derail Lahore; to internationalize the Kashmir dispute; to counter the trend toward turning the LoC into an international border.

Bashir Sadiq: My sense is that planning for Kargil was a very close hold affair within GHQ -- even some corp commanders were rather late to know. I believe Nawaz was briefed at some length about the plan when it was very far along, and that he gave his consent. Did he understand all of the ramifications and consequences? Probably not. Even if he instinctively understood what he was getting into, prime ministers of Pakistan are not in the habit of saying no to GHQ.

Chand Ram (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:7 IST)
Professor Krepon: Do you think the Kargil crisis has changed the tenor of Indo-US relations? Or are we jumping the gun about this?

Capt (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:11 IST)
Good evening Mr Krepon. With India's insistence that only the US of A should take all the initiative regarding Osama Bin Laden, how do you think this stand will impact the CBM between Indian and Pakistan. Will it help, especially when Bin Laden could be anywhere in Central Asia where India has just opened up bilateral dialogue.

Sanjai K (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:12 IST)
Michael Krepon: In a previous interview with Rediff, you commented that India crossing the Line of Control would galvanize the international community. Would this amount to a qualitatively different reaction, in comparison to Pakistan's crossing of the Line of Control? Is there something qualitatively different about India crossing the Line of Control, as compared with Pakistan crossing the Line of Control? Why is the idea of India crossing the Line of Control in self-defense considered more serious than Pakistan's crossing of the LoC in an unprovoked manner? Is India expected to shoulder a greater burden in respecting the Line of Control, as compared to Pakistan?

Sawant (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:8 IST)
Mr Krepon: Don't you think Kashmir is and has been an international issue all these years. So is there any credence to India's oft-repeated argument that there is no need for third party mediation?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:32 IST)
Chand Ram: US-India relations, US-China relations, and US-Pakistan relations are all in a state of flux. Of course, the more US ties with Pakistan and China deteriorate, the more likely they are to improve with India. But people here do not want to play the zero-sum game about US-India-Pakistan ties that many people in South Asia demand. We want good ties with both India and Pakistan.

Trend lines within Pakistan -- dramatically symbolized by the Kargil operation -- are very worrisome however, for the US, and especially for India. I believe there is a real possibility for a new chapter in US-India relations. In my view -- you may differ -- India is carrying a lot more ideological baggage than the US about changing the relationship for the better

Capt: The idea that a plebiscite can solve the Kashmir issue is a rather old one. I think we need new, creative ideas from India and Pakistan to help move this issue toward resolution.

Sanjai K: India did not cross the LoC for its own reasons. I'm sure New Delhi knew that to do so would bring in the international community with calls for a cease fire, withdrawal of forces etc. When I talked about this in a previous Rediff interview, I was only stating the obvious. By not crossing the LoC, the Indian political leadership and army accepted higher casualties. Now you must ask yourself the following question: Why did these brave soldiers lose their lives? Why are their loved ones grieving? To "protect the sanctity" of the LoC? If so, will Indian politicians continue to rise in the Lok Sabha rejecting the LoC as a solution?

Sawant: About internationalization of Kashmir: India internationalized this dispute at Pokhran.

Ronit (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:27 IST)
Mr Krepon: Do you see future problems emerging like the one we faced in Kargil?

Manuel (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:24 IST)
Mr Krepon: Do you expect more Kargils?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:42 IST)
To questioners who speak in terms of anger and whose stock in trade is venting: Do not expect responses from me.

Ronit & Manuel: Will there be future Kargils? Not exactly. But we are facing a long, hot summer in Kashmir. I'm afraid we have reached a stage in which violence will be a continuing factor along the LoC and within Kashmir itself. This is partly due to the progress made at Lahore. For every long-festering conflict, progress begets back-sliding. Those who are unalterably opposed to reconciliation are threatened by progress, and they have the guns to try to stop it. Check out Northern Ireland, or the Israeli-Palestinian peace/terror process.

The issue for India at this late stage is whether or not to re-engage with Pakistan, despite the sense of bitterness and betrayal. If you do not pick up the tattered pieces of the Lahore Declaration, then all you are left with is the violence. You will have empowered the irreconcilables, rather than marginalized them.

Raghuji (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:20 IST)
Mr Michael Krepon: Do you think we can trust these Pakistanis? They are backstabbers. Why do people like you want both of us to unite. We can never unite after Kargil. We trusted them by Lahore Accord. But they betrayed our trust.

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:45 IST)
Raghuji: How can you trust Pakistan? Surely you don't believe there is only one Pakistan! There are many Pakistans. Some constituencies you cannot trust. That's why you have a well-trained army. Other constituencies in Pakistan want the same things you want. So the real issue here is how can you work with like-minded people in Pakistan while diminishing the influence of those who wish you ill.

Kirti Verma (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:4 IST)
Dr Krepon: Would you agree that India has won a major victory and Pakistan has goofed in the Kargil conflict?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:47 IST)
Kirti Verma: The advance of the Indian army was probably the most important factor in influencing Pakistan's withdrawal. I believe there were other factors, as well: Pakistan's diplomatic isolation mattered, as did the visit by General Zinni. Pakistan's dire economic straits also was a big factor.

Desi (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:39 IST)
Mr Krepon: The Mujahideen who were backed by Pakistan have refused to withdraw from Indian territory. Why isn't Pakistan declared a terrorist nation when they are sheltering Afghan terrorists against whom even the US is fighting?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:52 IST)
Desi: The day that the United States places Pakistan on the list of states supporting terrorism will be a sad day for India as well as Pakistan. I fear that Pakistan is moving in this direction, however.

Mehnaaz (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:35 IST)
Mr Krepon: The attack by the Pakistani soldiers and terrorists backed by them in Kargil validates India having to possess nuclear arms, and secondly what moral right do the G-8 nations have to protest when they all possess nuclear weapons?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:55 IST)
Mehnaaz: Kargil validates India's decision to go nuclear? How so? How have nuclear weapons been the slightest bit helpful in dealing with unconventional or cross-LoC warfare? Instead, try to look at the Kashmir situation in a different light: When India and Pakistan developed covert nuclear capabilities, the Kashmir dispute got much worse. Then, when India and Pakistan demonstrated overt nuclear capabilities, the violence along the LoC worsened even more. Can you see see this pattern? Nukes free up unconventional military options and proxy wars. Congratulations.

Gaurav (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:50 IST)
Mr Krepon: In your answer to Raghu you said: Which Pakistan? There are different constituents of Pakistan. But, I feel that Pakistanis as a whole thinks that Kashmir should be theirs. And they want it. It's stupid to say which part of Pakistan.

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:57 IST)
Gaurav: How much time have you spent in Pakistan?

Veeresh Malik (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:54 IST)
Mr Krepon, slightly off the track, but would the Americans in any way consider the current-day terrorist scenario based conflict in this part of the world equal to the Communist threat perception on the '70s? And if so, what parallels if any do you see emerging vis-a-vis Vietnam?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 7:5 IST)
Veeresh Malik: The US was enmeshed in proxy wars during the Cold War. This was quite painful and expensive. Throughout this dark period, we managed to avoid direct shooting matches with the Soviet Union (give or take a few rounds.) Offsetting nuclear capabilities reinforced caution, but we and the Soviets continuously looked for ways to gain advantage and to avoid being placed at a disadvantage. India's relationship with Pakistan is different in many respects, obviously. The difference that is most striking to Americans is that you folks shoot at one another all the time!

The LoC is not the Berlin Wall. You went through a terrible stretch in Kashmir from 1989 till, say, the latter part of the 1990s. Pokhran may well have ushered in a new phase of the Kashmir issue, symbolized by Kargil. There could well be more difficulties ahead, whether or not your political leaders can see fit to re-initiate a diplomatic track.

Kirti Verma (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:49 IST)
Thanks for your response Dr Krepon. If you had to speak your mind who would you regard as the victor in the Kargil conflict, India or Pakistan?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 7:16 IST)
Kirti Verma: I don't think it's very useful to talk about "victors" at Kargil. I would urge you instead to think about victims: soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and their families. (In Pakistan's case, think for a minute about the families of soldiers who faithfully took orders and who never returned home for a proper burial.) Think about the victims in villages along the LoC. Think about the burdens of Kashmiris who have to deal with horrendous violence from jihadists or human rights abuses from Indian security forces. Think, if you can, about the added burdens placed on Pakistanis by this terrible misadventure. And think, too, about how many more victims are likely to be created in the future unless Indian and Pakistani leaders can summon the courage and wisdom to resolve this dispute.

Veeresh Malik (Thu Jul 15 1999 7:12 IST)
Mr Krepon, with all respect, isn't the US still enmeshed in "proxy wars" (whether by soldiers or by a sort of "regency" system, perfected by the older colonial cousins of yore/yours, the Brits) in countries like ARAMCO Saudi Arabia, assorted South American banana republics, then Japan to some extent and Phillipines/South Korea to a larger extent? Not to forget, oops, Yugoslavia or the different names they are calling it nowadays? Then you still have troops and ships parked in Diego Garcia protecting vital US interests half a planet away, and so on and so forth. So how do you say the Americans have called off the Cold War? And as far as shooting each other all the time is concerned, I personally feel the Bronx or even 42nd Street and Broadway, or maybe parts of Miami, are more "active" than Kargil. I just have one last question for you, since you're such an expert on our Subcontinent: how many of the local languages here do you know fluently? Please??

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 7:23 IST)
Veeresh Malik: Come check out 42nd Street, see a play, buy a T-shirt -- it's not at all like Kargil. I have learned and largely forgotten three languages. My rusty Arabic helps sometimes in South Asia, but I am a functional illiterate in terms of your many languages. This obviously limits my ability to "enter" the region. I try, therefore, to be careful about making sweeping judgments. How about you folks?

Sanjai K (Thu Jul 15 1999 6:45 IST)
Michael Krepon: But where am I speaking in anger? I am simply attempting to ask specific questions? Your own responses, however, seem to indicate some hostility to viewpoints that don't conform with your own. Surely we can all discuss this situation as adults, rather than ducking the difficult questions? Isn't that a necessity for productive discussions?

Sanjai K (Thu Jul 15 1999 7:24 IST)
Michael Krepon: During the American Independence War, Martha Washington helped to mind the candy store, so that her husband George Washington could go off to war. The USA, as a lender and primary loan guarantor to Pakistan, seems to be helping to mind Pakistan's finances, so that its generals can go off to war with India (eg. in places like Kargil). Why should India regard a Clinton administration that behaves like Martha Washington towards Pakistan, as an impartial party in regards to Indo-Pakistani disputes? Why wouldn't it be more prudent of the US to reduce its financial support to Pakistan, and to convince other traditional lenders to Pakistan, such as the Saudis, to do the same? Wouldn't that then incline the Pakistanis to focus more on their own domestic development, rather than entertaining militarist fantasies against their neighbours?

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 7:25 IST)
Sanjai K: Get a life!

Mr Michael Krepon (Thu Jul 15 1999 7:26 IST)
Dear Rediff Chatters: Thanks for the time. If you want to know more about the Stimson Center's work, check out our website at Will be wandering about India in September.