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Charles G. Cogan: Hands Off Kashmir!

America’s rapprochement with India, and its centerpiece nuclear agreement, is a bright star in the otherwise murky firmament of the George W. Bush years. India is a large power; it is a secular, democratic power, not influenced by Islamist radicalism. Its large Muslim population of 140 million seems generally—so far—not attracted to that kind of fanaticism. India is a country with a population of 1.17 billion whose numbers are destined to exceed those of China by 2050. (Pakistan’s population, much smaller, but not insignificant, is roughly 180 million). The advantage of the U.S.-India rapprochement, in the short and medium term, lies in the fact that this huge country is right next to a string of Muslim countries whose populations are generally (though not universally) hostile to U.S. interests. Because of the strategic importance that the United States places on both India and its troubled sister, Pakistan, policymakers in Washington have periodically tried to play the role of peacemaker in the region, hoping to push both nuclear-armed countries to resolve the bad blood between them—which, for the most part, has revolved around the contested province of Kashmir. In 2009, U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke reportedly tried to include India in his Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) portfolio, which seemed to mean that he wanted to take a crack at the Kashmir problem. The Indians, however, would have none of it, and AfPak remains limited to the two nations that make up the somewhat unwieldy conjunction. [caption id="attachment_4252" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Indian relief map of the Line of Control"][/caption] Steve Coll, in a New Yorker article on March 2, 2009, brought to light a parallel or “back” channel in Indo-Pak negotiations that took place during the regime of Pervez Musharraf. If the discussions had succeeded, and it appears they came close, it could have resulted in a sort of free movement of populations across the Kashmiri line of separation—without a change of sovereignty between the advantageous Indian and unimpressive Pakistani portions. However, Musharraf went into a political tailspin after his dispute with the Pakistan judiciary and had to leave office in August 2008. With his departure, the talks seem to have ended. Ironically, according to Coll, the Indians had come to trust Musharraf, despite the fact that he was the main instigator of the abortive Pakistani attack at Kargil, in Kashmir, in 1999. The arrangement nearly worked out reflects the Indian insistence that the line of separation (called the Line of Control) must not be altered, as this could affect the status of the Indian-held Valley of Kashmir, the beautiful “jewel in the crown” of the whole affair. Moreover, from the Indian point of view, ceding any part of Indian-held Kashmir, in what would be seen as stemming from religious reasons, would compromise the Indian political philosophy of secular government. In any event, a settlement now seems extremely unlikely in the short term, especially after the horrific attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 which originated in Pakistan. As long as Kashmir remains as it is, unequally divided, Islamabad will likely never be satisfied, which means we can expect more Pakistani agitation inside India and an increasingly stronger riposte from New Delhi. There is definitely a fear that the two Pakistan-sponsored terrorist groups, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are not only still active; worse, extrapolating from the attack on Mumbai, these groups may have set their sights on more ambitious targets, unleashing havoc within India’s metropolitan cities rather than engaging India’s massive deployments in Jammu and Kashmir. So where do things stand now?

Marianna Gurtovnik: Yemen on the Brink

The investigations of U.S. Army major Nidal Malik Hasan’s November 5 murder of 13 soldiers at a military base in Fort Hood, Texas, and of the December 25 failed attempt by a Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to detonate a bomb inside a 300-passenger plane en route to Detroit, have revealed links between these terrorists and a spawning Al Qaeda network in Yemen. Major Hasan reportedly exchanged e-mails and sought spiritual guidance from a radical U.S.-born Islamic cleric, Anwar Al-Awlaki, who grew up in Yemen. Mr. Abdulmutallab, for his part, said he received training and explosive devices from the Al Qaeda operatives during his four-month stay in Yemen last year. Yemen’s involvement in these terrorist acts has also shed light on its president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, whom Washington urged to launch a vast antiterrorist operation, now underway in the volatile Arab nation. Mr. Saleh is a seasoned war horse. He served as North Yemen’s president for 12 years, before merging the north and south in 1990, following decades of colonial and ideological division. He has been president of this Sunni-dominated nation ever since, although the real extent of his authority is questionable. The government repeatedly clashed with separatists in the south through the 1990s, and the insurrection flared again in 2008. Moreover, violence has escalated in the country’s northwest, along the border with Saudi Arabia, and repeated attempts to quash these Shiite insurgents (led by Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi) have been largely unsuccessful. In the northwest, Al-Houthi insurgents crossed into Saudi Arabia last month, murdering two Saudi patrol guards and triggering a joint Saudi-Yemeni airstrike against guerrillas. Today, the government’s control is effectively limited to the areas surrounding the capital, Sana’a. Although newspapers and 24-hour news channels seem keen to highlight Yemen as the new front in the “war on terror,” the nation actually surfaced as a breeding ground for international terrorists in the early 1990s, when impoverished refugees escaping violence in neighboring Somalia were recruited by Al Qaeda in Yemen. In October 2000, Al Qaeda terrorists blasted a hole in the American Navy destroyer USS Cole harbored in the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors. And, in September 2008, Al Qaeda bombed the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, killing ten non-American citizens. For the most part, the Bush administration’s engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq prevented it from allocating resources to confront the burgeoning terrorist network in Yemen. One critical mark of escalation in the Bush administration’s counterterrorism tactics was a CIA-sponsored drone strike in Yemen at the end of 2002 that killed six Al Qaeda operatives, including Qaed Sinan Harithi, the suspected organizer of the USS Cole incident. Today, the reoccurrence of domestic terrorism puts pressure on Obama to eradicate the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula before it gathers strength and threatens the stability of that nation. Indeed, the “systemic problems” that President Obama referenced in his speech about intelligence failures leading up to Mr. Abdulmutallab’s attempted bombing could just as well describe the state of affairs within Yemen. The country is plagued by numerous socioeconomic and political ills, including an excessive reliance on rapidly dwindling oil resources, severe water shortage, pervasive corruption, inter-regional tensions, and illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, and population growth rates that are among the highest in the Middle East. While protracted sectarian and territorial disputes have made the task of state-building increasingly difficult for Mr. Saleh, most of the problems the country faces today are the product of his own heavy-handed and short-sighted policies.

Jonathan Power: Obama’s Peace and War

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