Tuesday, Oct 28, 2003
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By R.K. Radhakrishnan
"It is still fragile. It could be a terrorist attack. It could be some insult that somebody issues to the other side and I think that the dialogue is at a very tenuous phase. So I would assume that the dialogue will collapse as the previous dialogues have," Prof. Cohen, who has written extensively between India and Pakistan.
The silver lining was India's offer to take steps towards the movement of people. "That is not superficial. That would change attitudes and opinions both here and in Pakistan. That is a requirement for a serious dialogue on Kashmir," he said.
The timing of the offer of talks just as elections are due in five States left room for many theories. "I have been trying to think through why the [Indian] Government made this announcement now," Prof. Cohen, who is here to reacquaint himself with India, said. "But it could be that the administration here decided that this was the time to put Pakistan on the defensive. I think they could have made these proposals a couple of months ago. Or it could have been connected to the Chinese policy [since Sino-Indian ties are looking up]. Maybe they thought they would be able to put more pressure on Pakistan. There are lots of such theories. But no matter which theory you use, it is welcome. The Pakistanis want a dialogue on Kashmir, but I do not think India is ready. It is part of a containment strategy."
He said the improvement in Sino-Indian ties would have a direct bearing on the regional equations as China was a party to the Kashmir dispute.
The threat held out by a few Ministers that this would be the last time India took the initiative to hold talks with Pakistan was mere rhetoric, Prof. Cohen said. "I am used to hearing from Indian officials that this is the last offer. Then give them the really last offer and still again give them the really last offer. This is largely rhetoric. But I hope that Pakistan reciprocates significantly. But it is going to be difficult for the Pakistanis to do that because they are so wrapped up around Kashmir."
`Role for outside world'
Prof. Cohen, senior fellow, foreign policy studies programme at the Brookings Institution, a Washington DC-based think-tank, said it was necessary for the outside world to intervene in the Indo-Pak. problem. "In the long-run, the outside world has to play a role to help facilitate the normalisation process," he said and added that this was because there was "great international concern about the spectre of two nuclear weapon states with basically an undeclared state of war between them."
At a lecture organised by the Centre for Security Analysis on the `United States and India: Divergent and Convergent Interests,' later in the day, Prof. Cohen said Indians welcomed the U.S. intervention as long as it was aimed at pressuring Pakistan.
"I have talked to many Indians, including some officials, and they are perfectly willing to see the U.S. pressure on Pakistan. In fact, the whole 2002 crisis was about India putting pressure on the U.S. to [in turn] put pressure on Pakistan. And we have done that, to some degree." In his view, the U.S. should use its position to address some of the long-term problems of the region.
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