Tuesday, December 8, 2009


From PEACE between India and Pakistan in Kashmir there is an unexpected beneficiary - the world's largest goat. The markhor, a mountain goat that stands almost 6ft tall at the shoulder and can weigh 17 stone, was thought to go extinct in Indian-controlled Kashmir. But a joint survey by Indian wildlife organisations and the Indian army found 35 small herds - 155 goats - thriving near the Line of Control.


by Zeenia Satti

On one hand, Pakistanis decry the induction of the private militia called Blackwater on their soil. On the other, when India demands that the Pakistan-based private militia called Lashkar-e-Taiba be dismantled for the resumption of the peace dialogue between India and Pakistan, the linkage seems incomprehensible to most Pakistanis.

If the Pentagon’s use of a private militia is unacceptable to the Pakistanis, then why should India be deemed wrong in demanding that Lashkar and Jaish, whose sole operational target is India, be uprooted?

If India’s given evidence regarding Mumbai is not enough for Pakistan to move against the Lashkar leadership, then, rather than allowing a stalemate over the issue, Pakistan should a) post the entire matter on the web wherein the insufficiency of the Indian dossier is clearly shown and invite India to post its counter argument; b) refer the matter to the International Criminal Court or the International Court of Justice for prosecution; and c) dismantle the Pakistan-based private Kashmir liberation militias, regardless of whether or not they are involved in the terror attacks in Mumbai.

Pakistan’s future prosperity depends not on the waters that flow from Kashmir but on the oil and gas that flow from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and connect with the Arabian Sea through Pakistan. Both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan need to diversify their reliance on Russia for access to international markets. With Russia as monopoly purchaser, Ashgabat and Tashkent’s ability to negotiate pricing is restricted. Pakistani-Afghan transit is the sole guarantor of competitive pricing for both. The diversification of Central Asian energy routes is in the United States’ interest as well. US-Russian relations are strained once again. India, being the second-largest energy market in the region after China, has a fundamental stake in this route as well. Revenue from energy pipelines from Central Asia can change the economic landscape of both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The above dynamic binds the states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the United States in a mutually beneficial framework. If the US involvement in Afghanistan is rightly administered, it is the best source of a quick fix for the region. This is why even Vladimir Putin insists that the US leave only after it has sorted out the “mess it created in the first place.”

Unlike his predecessor, Barack Obama’s moves—e.g., the elimination of Baitullah Mehsud—are directed at restoring stability in the region. While pursuing this goal, he is not solely corporation-driven, but people-oriented. That is why the administration wants to ensure the aid money for social-sector development in Pakistan reaches its target and wants to release it directly to the NGOs. It is the first time in history that Washington has departed from its practice of giving bags of money to the individual who is sitting in Islamabad toeing its line, disregarding how he/she spends it. It is Obama’s people-centric approach that has made nervous vested interests in the US resort to absurdities such as challenging the authenticity of his US birth certificate.

There is an acute awareness within the new White House that a new thought and new approach is necessary to handle Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Obama administration needs cooperative, sincere and visionary input from the regional political elite for the purpose. The Jamaat-e-Islami’s go America movement is ill conceived at this juncture. Just like the go Musharred movement did not yield desirable governance in Pakistan, America’s departure, though necessary, is not in the region’s interest with matters being the way they are.

Both India and Pakistan need to disengage from mutual acrimony and join heads together with significant actors in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, to help the new White House develop a blueprint for regional stability so foreign troops can go home and business benefiting all can flourish.

However, if, instead of finding help from the local elites, the new intellect in the Obama administration finds itself frustrated with entrenched mutual suspicion between regional actors, acrimony, double dealings, conspiracies and counter-conspiracies, its frustration with regional lack of vision would confine it to its other source of policy input—i.e., the CIA and the Pentagon. In that case, the more things change, the more they are likely to remain the same. i.e., reliance on greater use of force as the main vehicle for restoring order. In Afghanistan, this is too long a road to peace for any one’s benefit.

When neighbouring states are as much reliant on each other for their prosperity as India and Pakistan are, they need to cultivate free trade zones between them and open borders, instead of stationing missiles pointed at each other or paramilitary private militias operating against each other. The window of opportunity provided by the new White House for new thinking must be availed by the regional elites in a spirit of multilateral cooperation before it is shut because the regional elite is incapable of new thinking.

The Kashmir problem need not fossilise Indo-Pakistani politics into a set mode. Arundhati Roy is right in saying India needs liberation from Kashmir. Pakistan too needs liberation from a Kashmir-centric view of India.

The most lucrative benefit that can accrue to the poor population of the scenic valley of Kashmir is revenue through tourism. The valley’s population, along with Pakistan’s Northern Areas, has its best chance at enrichment through attracting tourists from affluent societies of the Middle East, Central Asia, Russia and China. The 9/11 fallout has led to greater restriction on travel to the Euro-American region for the oil-rich population of the Muslim world. The wealthy population from these societies will be looking for new resorts.

Both India and Pakistan can turn the Kashmir valley into a jointly administered Peace Park and a hub of tourism. If the US and Russia can agree to share an international park in the Bering Strait, so can New Delhi and Islamabad in Kashmir. Dozens of peace parks envisioned by Nelson Mandela are operating successfully in Africa, providing a model for such efforts.

Years of counterinsurgency is defacing and de foresting the ecologically precious valley of Kashmir. Instead of India’s rampaging soldiers and suicidal freedom fighters or terrorists (perspective determines which one) let the Indian and Pakistani political elite envision a Kashmir with eco-tourism. Hot air balloons, Shikara carried bed and breakfasts, sky gliders, bungee jumpers, outdoor adventures operated by the best in international tourism industry regulated by local watchdogs to preserve the ecosystem of the valley, bringing peace, progress and prosperity to the valley and beyond is a vision that is entirely feasible if the Indian and Pakistani elite would allow themselves to envision it. Let vacationists like Donald Trump build golf courses in Kashmir. Let there be amusement parks where children scream in refreshing excitement instead of inhuman horror.

Instead of the Indian and Pakistani military personnel, Indo-Pakistani Rangers can jointly manage the area, patrolling and protecting both people and property. Their training can be imparted in dozens of military academies in India and Pakistan, such as India’s RIMC and Sainik schools and Pakistan’s cadet colleges at Jhelum, Risalpur, and Hasanabdal. These centres of excellence can produce Peace Rangers as successfully as they have been cultivating human war crop for the last six decades.

Foreign policies are driven by economic interests, not religious differences. This has been true since the period of the Khulafa-e-Rashideen in Islam. The surfacing of new geopolitical and economic interests requires the regional states to forge an alliance like never before.

The writer is an analyst of energy geopolitics based in Washington DC. Email: zeenia.satti@post.harvard.edu

Source: thenews.com.pk
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1 comment:

  1. The Article makes an Impressive Reading and a visionary food for thought to the intellectuals, leadership and think tanks. Uzbekistan Does not have surplus oil and Only Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have. Uzbekistan exports Gas which can go to Pakistan. Oil and Gas Does not have to go to the Arabian Sea but can be consumed Fully by Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. for all the information regarding economics of Uzbekistan Visitors should visit http://www.harleytourism.com/uzbekistan-general/economic.html



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