Linked with India and Central Asia: Vanishing distances.
Towards strategic partnership, by Dr.Tabasum Firdous – The biggest irritant in regional peace and stability in South Asia has been the question of final disposal of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. As a bone of contention between India and Pakistan, the issue has immensely strained relations between the two countries.
Sorry, I can not find any photo of Firdous Tabasum, Kashmir (see also my comment ‘Brave women without photos‘).
Three wars have been fought and the proxy war is still going on. Therefore the question of regional peace strategy has to focus on this issue. India’s complaint is that the US has not come out with outright endorsement of her position on Kashmir.
At the same time, the US could not be too forthright on Pakistan’s claim. Washington has been trying to equate the two powerful South Asian countries in the scale of its policy planning in the region.
The on going armed resistance to Indian presence in Kashmir since 1990 and the 9/11 incident combined to make Washington think of new modality of tackling the Kashmir logjam. Thus came into existence what we call Track II diplomacy.ÿ
It appears to be heading to some positive results now in 2005. All actors on Kashmir and regional scene seem to have compulsions.
Apart from Kashmir, the Afghan situation has become another factor for serious consideration while taking into account the vision of peaceful South Asia.ÿ
Although Pakistan had a role in the rise of Taliban, yet when the movement stepped out of its limits, Pakistan had to take adequate measures to check the growing menace. This has been in the interest of regional peace.
We have to concede the fact that Pakistan’s bold decision of resisting the radicals has had its impact on Kashmir situation and India’s policy in Kashmir. Naturally, as a confidence building measure, this has come as a big step.
Conscious of the sensitvities of the governments in Delhi and also in Islamabad, Washington abandoned the suggestion of mediation that had been doled out from various quarters. This reflected US matured policy for the two sub-continental powers.
Instead, Track II diplomacy was resorted to and with encouraging results. Today the two countries are on talking terms, and even trying to minimize the areas of conflict. If the spirit of give and take perpetuates then one can hope that the South Asian region will find that the era of peace and stability is ushered in. This would be of great relief to the economically strained and impoverished millions in the subcontinent. It would also mean relief to the US from great anxiety of trying to maintain parity between the two countries of South Asia.
For the Americans, peace and normalcy in the region from the Urals to the Thien Shen in the East and to the Indonesian islands to the south essentially depends on the containment of religious radicals. The key to that sort of containment, in the opinion of American policy planners, is democratization coupled with economic development.
Iraqi experience has shown to the Americans that cut and dried formula of Westminster type of democracy cannot be exported to the regions or countries where it is badly needed. Central Asia is presenting almost the same problem but with different dimensions and contours. The recent development in Kyrgyzstan makes it clear that the hangover of Soviet days is short-lived. What has happened in Kyrgyzstan can also happen in Uzbekistan. Thus the whole of Central Asia appears to be simmering with discontent. Although in Kyrgyzstan, the turmoil is exclusively political and economic in nature but in the case of other Central Asian republics, and particularly in Uzbekistan, the element of religion could be inducted in an identical move of the dissidents.
Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important for policy planners in the US and in South and Central Asian regions that Central Asia needs to be drawn into the ambit of brisk economic activity. The pre-requisite for that is creating a viable overland link between the two parts of Asia.
This opens the prospect of overland routes connecting Almaty, Tashkent, Bishkek, Dushanbe and Ashkabad to the new silk route that goes cross Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. This is a priority and sooner the concerned actors understand it the better.
Kashmir also figures in this broad strategic move. The opening of Srinagar – Muzaffarabad road link means very little if it is not connected to the new silk route mentioned above. A tourist boarding a bus in Srinagar should be able to disembark in Almaty or Tashkent. Likewise another tourist boarding a bus in Ladakh should be able to travel through Delhi – Multan-Quetta-Zahidan, Kerman and disembark in Shiraz. That would be the real meaning of opening the borders of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. And if that does not happen, no wonder the euphoria of Srinagar – Muzaffrabad bus will evaporate in thin air within a couple of months.
Therefore given this entire political scenario, one can hope that the vision of a Greater Kashmir expands to Greater South Asia and then to Greater South and Central Asia. The leadership in all countries should understand that a just and equitable distribution of natural resources has to be the key to a satisfied civil society, which in turn is the key to peace and stability.
One can say that India has shown flexibility and Pakistan is responding. Pakistan’s military regime has to muster courage to curb the disruptive elements inside the country and carry the civil society with it. *(The author is a lecturer in the centre of Central Asian Studies in Kashmir University)
Central Asia: Security and Strategic Imperatives/Tabasum Firdous. Delhi, Kalpaz, 2002, 226 p., ISBN 81-7835-079-3; – Contents: Foreword. Introduction. 1. Soviet Union: hurtling towards the collapse. 2. Central Asia on the eve of revolution. 3. Sovereignty, defence and political structure. 4. Russia and Central Asia: security concerns. 5. Central Asia: the new ‘great game’. Appendix. Bibliography. Index.
“The present study offers an assessment of security concerns in Central Asia after the collapse of Soviet Union in 1991. It deals with the transition period for the five Central Asian states from the communist system to a democratic and pluralistic one. Essentially, the focus of the writer is on bilateral, multilateral and international commitments of these states to ensure peace and security in the region. The withdrawal of nuclear warheads from Kazakhstan, collective security formula, bilateral agreements and the role of the big powers – all make an interesting study. The author has discussed these concerns in the context of the stance of neighbouring states vis-à-vis Central Asia. Economic interests also figure wherever necessary.
“This work is highly useful to those who would like to concentrate on any aspect of history in Central Asia and adjoining regions in the post-Soviet period.” (jacket)