In New White House Contest, Kashmir As Old Debate Is Back

 Joe Biden – Donald Trump faceoff for upcoming US elections

From Donald Trump’s repeated mediation offers to his predecessor’s phony resolve of putting the world’s oldest dispute to rest, Kashmir has always fared on American politics and policy. Now days before new elections in the US, many are predicting a new twist in America’s Kashmir policy if Trump loses his crown to Biden.

By Salika Rashid

LAST time when the first black man walked as a president in White House, parts of Kashmir erupted with joy powered by rattling crackers.

In Barrack Obama’s advent, the oldest political dispute registered with United Nations apparently headed for closure. The ‘erudite’ US president had vowed to settle the seven-decade long issue during his tenure. But he ended up vacating the White House citadel to a honcho turned politician, without ruffling any feathers on the lingering issue.

Now, as the famous American poll buzz is back, analysts and pundits are predicting that in case Donald Trump gets routed by his opponent, Joe Biden, in upcoming US elections, the Kashmir issue might see a new posturing, given the global superpower sway held by America.

Notably, exhibiting its hegemonic and emancipatory power right after the end of the Second World War, the United States of America took on its shoulder the responsibility of steering the third world countries. And with Kashmir witnessing a disgruntled regime change after the bloodcurdling fall of 1947, the “global policeman” got actively involved in Kashmir.

The Cold War Era

In late 1940s, as the first Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru took the issue of Kashmir to United Nations to gain legitimacy over its claim, the South Asian region acquired world attention making it multilateral issue.

It is interesting to note that the U.S played a major part in balancing New Delhi, Islamabad and Kashmir before and after the cold war.

From the year of 1947-1961, U.S witnessed two Presidents, Truman and Eisenhower, who ardently supported plebiscite in the erstwhile state.

The Truman Administration (1945-53), which initially dominated the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), was joined by Great Britain in supporting a holding of a plebiscite in the state- notwithstanding the fact that this stance had angered the Nehru government.

US President Dwight D. Eisenhower with former PM Jawaharlal Nehru

After 1947 various heads were appointed to resolve the conflict of Kashmir. UNSC charged Admiral Chester Nimitz, a former Navy commander, as plebiscite moderator. In the beginning, India agreed for a plebiscite but gradually began to change the stance.

Both the U.S and Britain accentuated India to break a stalemate on the plebiscite but New Delhi rejected suggestions and demanded the removal of the Pakistani army from Kashmir.

Despite India’s unwilling stance, UNSC President General McNaughton of Canada was tasked by the UN to break the impasse. After his failed efforts, the UN appointed Sir Owen Dixon to mediate in the gridlock.

Dixon forwarded a proposal stating to limit the vote to the valley and partitioning the rest of the state on religious lines but Nehru rejected the proposal. Dixon advised the UN to give up on its mediation efforts and let the two countries seek a political solution on their own.

Despite repeated fiascoes, the UN didn’t stop appointing other mediators to resolve the issue. Dr. Frank Graham, a former President of the University of North Carolina, was assigned to intermediate but he also came up with the same suggestions.

Nehru considered Truman’s administration “unsympathetic” and “harsh” towards India.

In Eisenhower’s time, Pakistan became a close ally of the U.S by signing Baghdad Pact and South-East Asia Treaty Organisation which infuriated India.

In the meantime, Sheikh Abdullah was ousted from Kashmir and Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed was installed as the head by Nehru’s government. This triggered unrest in Pakistan but the U.S provided both diplomatic and military support.

During the time of President Kennedy, bilateral talks between the two countries were strongly emphasized. Nehru visited Washington on November 5-6, 1961. During his discussions with President Kennedy, Nehru reiterated his long-standing willingness to settle the Kashmir dispute on the basis of the acceptance of the cease-fire line as the international boundary between two parts of Kashmir.

But all efforts failed to bring the two parties to negotiation tables. The issue of Kashmir, when reached to President Johnson, gained momentum in the beginning but later interest began to decline.

In 1964, UN Ambassador Arthur Goldberg explicitly opined that the will and expression of the Kashmiri people should be taken into consideration. On December 4, 1964, India came up with Article 356 and 357 in order to bring the state under Presidential rule and Indian Parliamentary legislations.

This step of India infuriated Pakistan and it soon launched “Operation Gibraltar” in Kashmir. Later Tashkent Agreement signed between the two countries ameliorated the tensions and this time the Soviet Union initiated the mediation as the U.S was bogged down in the Vietnam war.

During the Nixon administration, both the countries fought another war over Bangladesh in 1971, in which the U.S favored Pakistan. And the Kashmir, according to Sumit Ganguly, “remained peripheral to the war.”

White House

Another agreement known as the Shimla agreement was signed between the two countries to deescalate the tension that erupted after the war. This agreement removed the clause for external mediation.

Ganguly rightly posits that this agreement accentuated on “bilateral negotiations” and “without outside intervention” thus limiting international involvement. While it seemed peace was restoring to Kashmir but this belief soon turned into a pro-freedom movement when in the 1990s struggle against New Delhi’s rule erupted in the valley.

Ganguly in his article Avoiding War in Kashmir delineates that the pro-freedom struggle “supported and funded by Pakistan” catalyzed the tensions between the rival parties and even to the brink of nuclear encounter. Such uneven relation makes one belief in what Arnold Abrams calls “a little war threatens to escalate into a huge ugly one.”

Thus, the U.S actively mediated in resolving the Kashmir issue during the cold war, as stated by Rathnam Indurthy, except during Kennedy’s administration.

Seymour Hersh, in his article, On the Nuclear Edge, illustrates how Pakistani generals were ready to use nuclear weapons to “take out New Delhi” and it was only when the U.S intervened, the crises were diffused.

The blame game between India and Pakistan continued, in which, the latter was criticized for carrying insurgency in Kashmir and former for delaying the fate of the region.

In 1991, Edward Djerejan who was an Assistant Secretary for South Asian Affairs delineated that the region of Kashmir is the “disputed territory” and the solution could be accessed under the “aegis of Shimla Accord 1972.”

Similarly, Clinton’s administration stressed human rights and acknowledged Kashmir as a conflicted zone. In his administration, Robin Raphel was appointed as Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs. She stated that the “whole of Kashmir was a ‘disputed territory’ and therefore its final status has yet to be resolved”. She further remarked:

“Making people disappear, encounter killings, extrajudicial executions, death in custody, all this stuff, frankly, there is no excuse for … we view Kashmir as a disputed territory … and that means we do not recognize the Instrument of Accession as meaning that Kashmir is forevermore an integral part of India.

Such statements infuriated India and in return, New Delhi labelled them as “inappropriate”, “undiplomatic”, and “provocative”.

Again with the outbreak of the Kargil War, the U.S mitigated the tension which erupted between the two countries. However, Clinton appreciated Vajpayee’s efforts of abating the tensions.

Post-Cold War Period

After Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization of the Indian economy in 1991, the inclination of the U.S towards India and the U-turn in the US policy on Kashmir was more palpable.

Trump-Modi Handshake

Farzana Shakoor, in her article, Kashmir Issue and US Global Objectives, vibrantly expostulates that “the disintegration of the Soviet Union, not only did the military cooperation between India and the US increase but their economic ties were also strengthened.”

She further stated that the liberal markets of India boosted “US investments and private companies.”

Also, the United States had a strategic interest, not confined to Kashmir, but, to two South Asian countries India and Pakistan. Pakistan acted as a bulwark against Soviet expansion and an ally for countering communist states.

Parama Sinha Palit, in his article, The Kashmir policy of the United States: A study of the perceptions, conflicts, and dilemmas, contends how the British forced the U.S to deny “Indian ownership to the Kashmir” and develop a healthy relationship with Pakistan.

If the trajectory of the U.S role in mediation is anatomized then one can sense how U.S in association with U.N tried to settle the issue of Kashmir through plebiscite and later myriad negotiations, just to keep Pakistan under its umbrella. It was in the interest of the U.S that it played both sides of the fence, that is, first by supporting Pakistan before the end of the cold war and later India.

As Palit has stated that, the U.S developed relations with India to counter Chinese influence and the shift was apparent when there was a transition from the support of “plebiscite” to “bilateral solution to the Kashmir problem.”

Another explanation provided by Dr. Sharif Shuja, in response to a claim of a pro-Pakistani American position, described that “the U.S. policy in the past and present would reveal that the United States is neither pro-Pakistan nor pro-India, it is only pro- America.”

Even Aaron Zimmer, in his article, Has the Cold War Affected the United States’ Position on the Kashmir?, says that the “strategic interest” of the U.S complicated the relationships and led to numerous wars between the countries.

Kamala Harris is seen as a game-changer for Kashmir

The United States has attempted to strike a balanced, neutral position on the Kashmir where India and Pakistan are ultimately responsible for ending the tension. This will likely remain the United States’ approach unless the situation deteriorates to a point where the tensions between India and Pakistan are damaging the nation’s strategic interests, or the region attracts large numbers of multi-national terrorists posing a direct threat to the United States.

While anatomizing different facets of history, it becomes evident that the power politics, survival, national security and self-interest of America always stood first. The scheme of countering countries to sustain the seat of ‘hegemony’, United States’ policies pristinely passed the axioms of realism.

Also, one cannot deny that the conflict region boosts the business of capitalized countries, that is, trade of arms and ammunition has more success from the bloodbath.

Scholar Mohammad Rafi Bhat rightly posited “that Kashmir conflict would remain as long as the powerful nations and global leading capitalists of armament industries don’t stop looking at it as a market opportunity and think beyond their profits.”

Thus, examining the history with both nations since independence from the British, one may be able to determine the U. S. position on Kashmir vis-à-vis the closeness of relationships.

One may conclude that the time changed the region of Kashmir from the “disputed territory” to undisputed one.

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