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'India and Pakistan need to get along'

By Pervez Majeed
Last updated on: October 27, 2017 09:14 IST
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'Whatever the two countries are doing these days, on the diplomatic front and on their borders, that hostility is not sustainable.'
'Today's world doesn't approve it.'

Image: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with then Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif on his arrival in Lahore in a surprise visit in December 2015 to attend Sharif’s grand-daughter’s wedding. Photograph: PTI Photo.

Former US diplomat, ambassador, and Central Intelligence Agency analyst Robin Lynn Raphel was her country's first assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Affairs, appointed by then US president Bill Clinton in 1993 to help his government understand and manage the regions on her watch, notably Jammu and Kashmir.

In this position, she was vocal about 'solving the Kashmir issue' and termed Jammu and Kashmir as 'disputed territory', which elated Pakistan but enraged India.


Known for her vigorous diplomatic campaign to solve the political and security issues of South Asia, particularly among India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Raphel -- as assistant secretary of state and later in 2009 as senior adviser on Pakistan to the state department under then secretary of state Hillary Clinton -- played a role in shaping US policies in South Asia.

Almost three years ago, the Washington Post newspaper reported that Raphel had her office and home searched by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on November 6, 2014.

An intercepted conversation with a Pakistani diplomat reportedly led to the FBI raid.

Her security clearance was revoked, but the FBI closed the case in March 2016 without any charges being filed against Raphel whose first husband Arnold Raphel, then the US ambassador to Pakistan, was on the plane with General Zia-ul Haq when it crashed on August 17, 1988.

In July 1997, Raphel granted an interview to India Abroad, the oldest Indian-American newspaper, which provoked a raging controversy in Washington, DC and New Delhi.

Twenty years after that controversial interview, Raphel spoke to Pervez Majeed in Washington, DC. The first of a multi-part interview:

You must be following the situation in Kashmir. What are your impressions?

I do follow the situation and my overall impression is that it is surprising to me that after so many years and so many opportunities to solve the issue, Kashmir is still on the boil.

I am sad that Delhi missed opportunities to reach an accommodation with the Kashmiris. Now there is this kind of frustration and violence. That is really unfortunate. That is tragic.

Who do you think is responsible for this?

It is very difficult to assign responsibility or blame. Yet, on the one hand, the Indian government has the responsibility for the way it has dealt with Kashmir; the way its troops and security services behave there. I think in the first instance that is the major problem.

But clearly, violence has occurred on both sides. I think there is no doubt that just the sheer numbers of troops in Kashmir to a certain degree lack self-discipline. That happens when you have too many troops at a relatively small space from a long way from their central command.

The US government has always believed that it has to be a three-party dialogue because Kashmiris have got to be represented. Just Indians and Pakistanis cannot decide.

Would you say that India failed to take advantages of the opportunities over the years?

That's my view. I think once the insurgency calmed down and Pakistanis for their own reasons and (due to) pressure from the outside decreased support for insurgency, that was the perfect opportunity for New Delhi to engage with the Kashmiris.

I heard some people tried that, but for some reasons it didn't happen. Now 25 years later you are in the same situation!

While in office, during your interactions with leaders of India and Pakistan, what in your view did they actually want to do vis-à-vis Kashmir?

I think at various points there have been leaders who were both committed.

The circumstances were more favourable to make India and Pakistan agree on some kind of modus operandi for Kashmir.

I have to interject that the US government has always believed that it has to be a three-party dialogue because Kashmiris have got to be represented. Just Indians and Pakistanis cannot decide.

I think in Pervez Musharraf's time there was a more practical, less ideological vision. He by all accounts got pretty close with his Indian counterparts to a framework that could begin to be basis of a longer term arrangement.

Do you still hold same view about Musharraf's four-point formula?

I definitely believe that at some point there would be an arrangement on these lines.

What do you think that arrangement could be?

For an outsider looking at the situation between Kashmir, India and Pakistan, it is obvious that first of all, India and Pakistan need to get along. For example, trade and movement of people across borders has to be allowed.

Whatever the two countries are doing these days, on the diplomatic front and on their borders, that hostility is not sustainable. Today's world doesn't approve it.

Pakistan has to stop its support to militancy, but India has to stop human rights abuses by security forces. Both can't continue like that.

Both countries claim sovereignty on all parts of the divided state, but I think that is not a practical position. They should allow travel across borders and let divided Kashmiris conduct their social and economic relations fully.

Do you see any difference between the Congress and BJP governments in the handling of Kashmir?

I don't think there was so much difference in attitude and temperament between the Congress governments and the Vajpayee government. But today's BJP government is taking a harder line.

I don't know exactly what their game plan is... Some say it is to get rid of the special status that Kashmiris have, Article 370 and so on.

The evolution of the Indian Constitution for Kashmir has a background. Trying to abrogate the special position of Kashmir is not the place to start to deal with an insurgency.

It amounts to reversing the gains, whatever they are.

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