Afghanistan: The Forgotten Conflict in Kashmir

AfghKash Pankaj Mishra over at the NYRB blog:

Obama’s long speech on Afghanistan did not refer even once to India or Kashmir. Yet India has a large and growing presence in Afghanistan, and impoverished young Pakistanis, such as those who led the terrorist attack on Mumbai last November, continue to be indoctrinated by watching videos of Indian atrocities on Muslims in Kashmir. (Not much exaggeration is needed here: an Indian human rights group last week offered evidence of mass graves of nearly 3000 Muslims allegedly executed over the last decade by Indian security forces near the border with Pakistan.) Another terrorist assault on India is very likely; it will further stoke tensions between India and Pakistan, enfeebling America’s already faltering campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda.

There are many reasons for this silence. Strident Indian protests destroyed the chances of Richard Holbrooke adding Kashmir to his responsibilities as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Assuming the presidency, Obama inherited the Bush administration’s policy of building up India as a strategic American ally and counterweight to China in Asia. Encouraged by an affluent and increasingly assertive Indian-American lobby, the Bush administration offered a civil nuclear agreement to India. India, unlike Iran, has long refused to sign the NPT; the nuclear deal was yet another one of the Bush administration’s defiant assertions of American exceptionalism, opening up India, after a long period of sanctions, to American defense companies (Lockheed Martin alone hopes to cut deals worth $15 billion over the next five years).

It is true that India does not seem to have the same exalted place in the Obama administration’s worldview. As the US and China become even more economically interdependent, notions of “containing” the Middle Kingdom through pro-America allies now look less like realpolitik than a symptom of anachronistic cold-war thinking in Condoleezza Rice’s State Department.