'Kashmir issue resolution would make Pak a more normal state'



Washington: A resolution of the outstanding Kashmir issue would make Pakistan a "more normal state" and reduce its preoccupation with India, according to a former CIA officer who was one of the architects of President Barack Obama's Af-Pak policy in his first term.

In his latest book 'Avoiding Armageddon: America, India, and Pakistan to the Brink and Back', Bruce Riedel said that by eliminating Pakistan's desire to wage asymmetric warfare against India, it would also discourage Pakistan from making alliances with the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and al-Qaeda.

Riedel and late Richard Holbrooke were the architects of Obama's Af-Pak policy. He is currently a research scholar at the prestigious Brookings Institute.

"The resolution of the Kashmir issue would go a long way toward making Pakistan a more normal state and reducing its preoccupation with India," he wrote.

He said it would also remove a major rationale for the army's disproportionate role in Pakistani national security affairs; that in turn would help to ensure the survival of genuine civilian democratic rule in the country.

"Former ambassador William Milam, a seasoned South Asia hand, has rightly stressed that the 'India-Centricity of the Pakistani mindset is the most important factor and variable' in the future of the country. Such an agreement would not resolve all the tensions between the two neighbors; however, their disputes on issues other than Kashmir are comparatively trivial," he wrote.

"A Kashmir deal would set the stage for a different era in the subcontinent and for more productive interaction between the international community and Pakistan. It could set the stage for a genuine rapprochement between India and Pakistan and nurture trade and economic interaction, which could transform the subcontinent for the better," Riedel said.

He said that "it is also in India's interest" to find a solution to the conflict, which has gone on far too long.

"Since the Kargil war in 1999, the Indians have been more open to an American role in Kashmir because they sense that Washington is fundamentally in favor of a resolution to maintain the status quo, which India can accept," he claimed.

"The key to Indian cooperation will be whether the United States can make clear to Pakistan that some red lines regarding terrorism are real, especially a red line on Lashkar-e-Taiba. If (Congress President) Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh can point to real evidence that LeT is being broken up and dismantled in Pakistan, then they will have the political clout to advance the back-channel talks to secure a peace breakthrough," Riedel wrote.

"It is clearly in the American interest to try to defuse a lingering conflict that has generated global terrorism and repeatedly threatened to create a full-scale military confrontation on the subcontinent," he wrote.

PTI