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Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Recently, India and Pakistan have been negotiating about the fate of Kashmir. The long-disputed territory, of course, was the trigger for a couple of wars between these states. The material conditions have changed since both states are now nuclear armed.

On September 22, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are slated to meet in conjunction with a UN General Assembly session. Glancing through the regional press reports, it does not appear as if anyone is particularly optimistic about the various meetings.

The US, of course, has a keen interest in the future of Pakistan, which means it should be very interested in the resolution of the dispute about Kashmir.

After all, Pakistan relies upon militants to put pressure on India in the negotiations about Kashmir -- and the Pakistanis holding the most militant views towards Kashmir are also the most likely to be anti-western (and potential al-Qaeda members or sympathizers).

Consider this from Ahmed Rashid, in a July 2004 Smithsonian story (warning: pdf) on Pakistan:
“Musharraf has promised to clamp down on all militants operating in Pakistan. But in reality, two different things are going on. The army is trying to eliminate Al Qaeda, foreign militants who are in Pakistan to fight a global jihad against America. But the army is not trying to eliminate Pakistani militants who want to fight India in Kashmir. The army wants these domestic Kashmiri militant groups to pause their activities, but it doesn’t want to dismantle them yet in case negotiations with India fail. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda and our domestic militant groups are deeply embedded in each other. So the army’s policies are pushing in two opposite directions at the same time.”
Rashid continued:
“The [Pakistani] army is trying to distinguish these sectarian groups from the ones fighting for Kashmir and go after them. But because all these groups—Al Qaeda, the sectarian groups and the groups fighting in Kashmir—are interrelated, it’s hard to do."
Jessica Stern of Harvard emphasizes the critical importance of Pakistan in US foreign policy:
"What happens in Pakistan in the coming months and years will have an enormous impact on the lives of ordinary Americans. If it chooses, Pakistan can greatly facilitate the war on terrorism but it can also facilitate the growth of al Qaeda worldwide."
It sounds like Hassan Abbas' book, Pakistan's Drift into Extremism: Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror is worth reading.

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