Mumbai attacks may sharpen
Obama's Kashmir focus
By Mayank Chhaya
Nov 28 (IANS) The multiple terror attacks on Mumbai could
push the incoming Barack Obama administration to sharpen its
focus on the Kashmir issue.
attacks are being viewed by some in the transition team here
as President-elect Obama's first major national security challenge
that could draw him into the Kashmir dispute sooner than he
there is no direct link established between the terrorists
operating in Kashmir with those who carried out the Mumbai
attacks, a case may be made that eventually all jehadi groups
are bound by a common Islamist philosophy.
that extent the Deccan Mujahedeen, a likely offshoot of the
more organized Indian Mujahedeen, may well share the broader
vision of those operating in Kashmir.
of the reason why the Mumbai attacks could more sharply define
the new Kashmir approach is because in the final analysis
Kashmir (including the part under Pakistani control) is seen
as a fount of the rising Islamist terror in India. Of course,
factors such as the 2002 mass killings of Muslims in Gujarat
do fuel some of the sense of extreme disenchantment within
the Muslim community. However, the larger connection between
the disparate groups will always remain a feeling of pan-Islamism.
the clearest indication of a more pro-active Kashmir approach
under Obama has come from Bruce Reidel, a former CIA officer
and adviser to three US presidents on South Asia and the Middle
East who has been appointed by the new president as his Pakistan
an interview with the influential think tank Council on Foreign
Relations Reidel was quoted as saying as recently as September:
"There's another place where I feel creative American
diplomacy could be helpful. We ought to try to encourage a
long-term settlement between India and Pakistan of the Kashmir
dispute, based again on the principle that the existing Line
of Control ought to become an international border with some
special status reserved for Kashmiris."
can't expect Pakistan to behave like a normal state, unless
it has normal borders. And we can't expect Pakistan to behave
the way we would like it to while it's obsessed and fixated
on its neighbor and the problem in Kashmir. The problem in
Kashmir has been in the doldrums for the past several years.
It is now starting to boil really quickly, and when Kashmir
boils, the result is Indian-Pakistani tensions that can produce
war. We've seen that over and over again," he said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointing at external links of
the Mumbai attackers, it is not lost on experts in the US
that he could be talking of groups based in Pakistan. If that
is indeed the case the brazen Mumbai attacks could yet work
up new tensions with Pakistan. Since Obama is committed to
making Afghanistan and Pakistan his administration's foreign
policy as well national security priority, it is only logical
that he would have to pay particular attention to Kashmir.
the chatter over Obama proposing to appoint a special envoy
on Kashmir has died down in recent weeks, it is clear that
the Mumbai attacks would bring back a whole lot of options
on the table. At the very least they would force Obama and
his South Asia advisers to reassess the situation on the ground.
who know the issue of terror in India understand that the
mushrooming jehadi outfits use the justification of the community
having been wronged in India as much as it having been wronged
outfits no longer make any distinction between what they consider
wrongs being done to Indian Muslims and those being done to
Muslims worldwide. This fusion of global and domestic grievance
among the jehadi groups, perceived or real, could make it
hard for the Obama administration to tailor their Kashmir
knows who Deccan Mujahedeen are or what their objectives are
or whether they feel any affinity towards the Kashmiri separatists.
But it may be safe to assume that all these groups morph into
each other when it comes to what they have framed in their
minds as Islam versus the world conflict. It is in this nebulousness
that the Obama administration will have to pitch its Kashmir
approach in the framework of its national security policy
on South Asia, in the light of threat perceptions emanating
from Afghanistan and Pakistan.