Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Daniel Markey Tuesday said that the raising of the issue of American intervention in Jammu and Kashmir by visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington was not ‘especially constructive’ and was motivated by political expediency.
Markey, an expert on Pakistan, India and South Asia said in response to a question at CFR that it is politically expedient and important for Sharif to show his countrymen that Kashmir has not disappeared from the agenda and that he will raise it in important fora, including with the US.
“However, I think that is a very strong and durable consensus in Washington that Kashmir is not an area where the US wants to mediate. The US is willing to back any imitative that India and Pakistan might take to resolve the issue on their own, but it does not want to pursue the role of a mediator or make itself a third party at any kind of discussion. Frankly, the prime minister would be wrong to think that if the US were to engage in that role that he would have a strong American partner,” he said.
“I think historically the Pakistanis have seen Americans have more or less been on their side on the Kashmir issue. But in recent years, the US has seen it as an issue where it would not take the Pakistani side. They would prefer that India and Pakistan resolve the issue on their own and that is not going to change (its position) whatever Sharif suggests at the white house,” during his meeting with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, Markey said.
Markey and former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter discussed US-Pakistan relations on a media call at CFR on Tuesday afternoon.
The ambassador had a slightly different take on the issue of Kashmir. He said that at the USIP meeting where he was present, Sharif was talking about it (Kashmir) in a very ‘constructive’ way as it was ‘mainly to deal with a number of issues in the India-Pakistan relationship, including Kashmir that is on the table, but not necessarily to try to make this (Kashmir) as the litmus test of the relationship.
“I think what is laudable despite what has happened in terms of violence on the line of control in recent days, is the fact that they very adequately and systematically have begun to talk about the trade, border issues, visa regimes and other problems,” he said.
“These are very helpful to talk about things and interests that India and Pakistan have in common. Kashmir is an important issue, one of the many issues that remain unresolved between the two countries. It is good to be on the table with the other elements. We can make a bit of progress. America, in my opinion, is always willing to back up their initiatives, but it is up to the Pakistanis and the Indians to find how they choose to do it with the support of America and other friends of both countries. I think they can make a lot of progress,” the ambassador said.
Both Markey and Munter touched upon the issue of US drone strikes on Pakistani territory and felt that the issue that has generated controversy and contention likely would be raised by the visiting prime minister during his meeting with Obama.
Munter said in response to a question that the drones issue is part of the broader question as to how does one deal with terrorism -- the elements, the ability of the Pakistani intelligence, military and also the people to play a role.
“Drones and the issues they have posed,” he said, “are only a prelude to counter terrorism and the way both countries decide whether they are going to work together or not.”
Markey said that during the previous in Pakistan, drone strikes was a political problem for the then Pakistani regime, unpopular as they were inside Pakistan and President Zardari also saw it as helpful for Islamabad because they were targeting some of the terrorist enemies inside its territory. Now, in addition to that there is a strategic problem in the sense that the US and Pakistani sense of threat, that is which group should be targeted by drones, have been different.
“I imagine that it is possible to have a compromise in which the US will be willing to have a scale back of the drone attack against its target list for al Qaeda core for a period of time, certainly during two months or so when Pakistani Taliban talks are ongoing. It is very difficult to get out of the situation, but if it is possible to scale down the drone strike, I think it should be at least on the table for discussion,” Markey, author of new book No Exit From Pakistan: America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad, said.
What are the opportunities he sees in regional power transition in the next six to eight months, including in India and Afghanistan?
Markey said that he is concerned about next six or eight months because of the election in India.
“We do not know but one can be fairly sure that there would be a new prime minister. Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh been a stabilising influence by most accounts and he has been somebody who has reached out to Pakistan on multiple occasions and has taken a very sober approach to what has unfolded in Afghanistan. First of all whoever comes (to power), there would be a tumultuous election and a new face. So that is uncertainty there.”‘
“On Afghanistan there is also uncertainty even in the process of election itself with the degree of political insecurity and national corruption. There will be real questions about the legitimacy of the process. I think it is difficult to see a stable regional scenario at this moment,” Markey said.