should prepare for Obama's regional strategy: expert
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Jan 27 (IANS) A US-brokered South Asia strategy based
on regional cooperation will complement existing bilateral
dialogues and can be “good” for India, Rahul Roy-Chaudhury,
a leading strategic expert, said Tuesday.
“The unknown question is whether or not there will be a Kashmir
focus. At the end of the day, if India doesn't want to be
part of it, you can't force it,” said Roy-Chaudhury of the
London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies
He said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's recent
controversial comments about Kashmir - although “misplaced"
- should be seen in the light of the shifting priorities signalled
Roy-Chaudhury's comments came as the IISS Tuesday published
its Military Balance 2009 - a report that predicts that the
failure of Western forces to counter the Taliban in Afghanistan
in 2008 could prompt these powers to “reappraise their commitments”
Roy-Chaudhury, who heads the South Asia division of IISS,
said that with President Barack Obama shifting US strategic
priority from Iraq to Afghanistan, New Delhi should be prepared
for greater regional engagement.
“Indian fears are exaggerated. The clear challenge is Afghanistan,
and India's regional engagement will be good,” Roy-Chaudhury
He said Miliband's recent statement urging a resolution of
the Kashmir dispute should be seen in the light of shifting
“The British reaction has been very supportive to India, in
condemning terrorism and in calling for UN sanctions against
Although Miliband's linking LeT with Kashmir was “misplaced
and very tenuous”, Roy-Chaudhury said, “The UK and the West
are trying to get the momentum going on Kashmir.
“An element of British policy would like more movement on
Kashmir because there is an acknowledgment that India holds
the cards. That interest comes to the fore with Obama.”
The lack of tangible success in Afghanistan, coupled with
the fact that Western troops are tied down in Iraq, meant
the West was now keen on exploring alternative strategies.
“Now the feeling is that you can't do Afghanistan without
doing Pakistan, and you can't do Pakistan without working
with India,” said Roy-Chaudhury, who interacts closely with
Western and South Asian security officials and experts.
He said the Obama Administration will seek to establish a
“regional mechanism” to complement the existing bilateral
dialogues that India has with the US, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“India will be drawn into what is happening in Afghanistan
and Pakistan, but it's not a change that India should be concerned
about. Engagement via a regional security mechanism will complement
the current process.”
Such a regional forum, he said, would focus on five issues:
terrorism, development, political structures, tribal areas,
and possibly Kashmir.
The Afghanistan linkage to the Kashmir dispute arises from
the failure of the current Western anti-insurgency strategy
in Afghanistan, which in turn has led to calls for more troops
in that country.
Movement on the Kashmir issue, it is argued, would enable
Pakistan to move its troops from the Indian border to the
western border with Afghanistan.
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