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Experts say Kashmir key to Afghan conflict resolution

WASHINGTON, Dec 24 (APP): With viable success still remaining elusive for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, two experts have emphasized that a resolution to the long-ignored Kashmir dispute between nuclear powers Pakistan and India would help bring peace to the entire region.Writing in the Boston Globe, Basharat Peer, an Open Society Fellow and Sasha Polakow-Suransky, a senior editor at Foreign Affairs – who have both authored books on security issues – cite regional implications of Pakistan-India tensions and argue that the road to peace in Afghanistan leads to the lingering Kashmir dispute.

“In the wake of last week’s WikiLeaks revelations of the Indian government’s use of torture against Kashmiri prisoners, the time has come to put Kashmir back on the map and include it in discussions of a broader regional peace one that would extend to Afghanistan as well,” the experts note.

The two authors favor a subtle U.S. diplomacy push to help move the two South Asian neigbours – Pakistan and India – towards an acceptable settlement of the decades-old dispute, which has been the cause of several military conflicts in the past.
In the opinion piece entitled “All roads lead to Kashmir,” the writers point out the fact that the longstanding Kashmir dispute prevents Pakistan from focusing away from its Eastern border having heavy Indian military depoloyment to the Afghan border on the West while for New Delhi the occupation of the disputed territory remians a stain on Indian democracy.
Besides, it has given rise to militancy in the region.
“The longstanding dispute over Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim region, has poisoned relations between Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan for decades;
spawned and sustained anti-Indian terrorist groups; prevented Pakistan’s army from fighting extremists along its border with Afghanistan; and proved deadly for the Kashmiris caught in between.”
The fresh call for recognizing the linkage between Kashmir and Afghanistan came in the wake of renewed violene in the occupied Kashmir valley.
In early July this year, the bodies of three young laborers killed by Indian troops were discovered in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, unleashing a wave of protests. Police fired tear gas at protesters in Srinagar and killed a 17-year-old student, who was simply passing by.
Soon, young Kashmiris armed with stones were battling Indian troops, who responded with bullets. An intense military curfew followed. From July to September, the Kashmiri intifada raged on killing 110 and injuring at least 1,500.
“India has long resisted any outside attempt to mediate in Kashmir … yet the occupation of Kashmir remains a stain on India’s democracy,” say the writers.
Over 500,000 Indian troops and paramilitary forces are stationed in the occupied territory while killings of civilians by security forces routinely go unreported and unpunished as a result of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which effectively gives Indian troops stationed in Kashmir a de facto license tokill, the two analysts note.
The most recent trove of WikiLeaks confirmed what human-rights organizations have long alleged: that Indian troops have systematically tortured Kashmiri prisoners. After documenting widespread torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners who ‘were rarely militants,’ the Red Cross told US officials in 2005 that it had concluded that the Indian government ‘condones torture’.
The two analysts also cite regional American experts such as former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, who have argued that a lasting peace in Afghanistan is impossible without a resolution in Kashmir.
So long as Pakistan’s military remains focused with the Indian threat and the mlarge number of Indian troops along its eastern border, it is reluctant to redeploy its troops and its resources to go after the Taliban along Pakistan’s western border with Afghanistan, they contend.
“At the same time, Pakistan fears encirclement by India due to growing Indian influence in Afghanistan after the United States withdraws.”
Pakistan’s strategic calculus will only change, says Riedel, ‘once the logic of confrontation with India begins to be undermined.’
“Even India’s current leaders realize that they cannot suppress Kashmiris’
desire for freedom forever and that they, too, could benefit from a resolution.
Sonia Gandhi, the president of India’s ruling Congress Party, recently admitted the need to address ‘the alienation of the whole new generation of youth that has known nothing but conflict’ in Kashmir. Another decade of tear gas and torture will not help India gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and a larger role on the international stage.”

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