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Kashmir issue not on Obama Administration’s radar

US President Obama waves to the audience after he delivered a speech at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi

Washington: Pakistan’s attempt to internationalise the recent Kashmir protests will most likely fail, as the unrest in the valley is “not registering significantly” in the West, and there is no reason for Kashmir to get back on the global map in any meaningful way, say analysts.

“The Pakistanis have tried it for years, lobbying in the UN, Washington and elsewhere trying to get key western capitals to focus on Kashmir and they have largely failed,” says Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington DC.

Analysts believe that Pakistani attempts to involve the United States will not work as the focus in Washington is on the presidential campaign and on other foreign policy issues that are seen as having a more direct bearing on U.S. interests such as ISIS, the Middle East, Russia and so forth.

The United States is more likely to offer the usual platitudes for the two countries to talk very generally avoiding specific Kashmir references as there is a strong desire in Washington to de-hyphenate its relations with Pakistan and India, which includes maintaining a workable relationship with the Pakistanis while developing deeper relationship with India.

“For now, at least, the U.S. government’s muted remarks on Kashmir suggest a recognition of the tough circumstances under which India is trying to maintain law and order and constitutional democracy,” says Sadanand Dhume, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

However Kugelman points out that the measures used by Indian security forces against protesters in Kashmir “seem to be out of proportion with reality on the ground” and, if the violence continues over the next few weeks, international media attention will intensify and may affect India’s image.

Protests in the valley that began after security forces gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani have left over 56 dead and 4000 injured.

Both India and Pakistan have blamed each other for instigating the violence, resulting in a diplomatic war of words, and the Indian Prime Minister including references to Balochistan in his Independence Day speech.

Some analysts are looking at the latest round of tension between the two nations as part of the cycle of a war of words that has so often dominated this relationship when it comes to Kashmir.

However the present war of words is seen as a reflection of a very “inconsistent even incoherent policy” of the Modi government.

“There has never been a clear cut policy in the Modi government towards Pakistan and, I think, Modi in some ways was trying to test the waters. He wanted to see what the results are when he tries to take some small conciliatory steps”, says Kugelman.

But after the Lahore visit was followed by the Pathankot attacks, analysts believe, Modi might have concluded that now is not the time for conciliatory gestures as the public messaging from Pakistan about the willingness to talk isn’t backed by any significant level of support to getting closer to India in a big way.

Analysts also believe that the Indian side may have concluded that the generals hold so much control behind the scenes in Pakistan that it’s not worth trying to engage in conciliatory moves at this point, and therefore, now is the right time to up the ante and make some pretty bold proclamations.

In this context, the mention of Baluchistan in the Independence Day speech of the Indian Prime Minister can be seen as a signal that the country is not going to be afraid to take measures that previously have been avoided by the Indians for fear of provoking the Pakistanis.

“Modi’s remarks appear to be a thinly veiled warning to Pakistan. He’s effectively saying, ‘be careful of stirring up trouble in Indian Kashmir lest India return the favor in Baluchistan’,” says Dhume.

While it is too soon to tell if the mention of Baluchistan in the Independence Day speech reflects a policy change in India, analysts feel that it certainly marks “a rhetorical shift” and undoubtedly gives the troubled Pakistani province “a prominence that it did not enjoy before in India.”

However there is also the view that by mentioning Baluchistan in his speech, the Indian Prime Minister was simply trying to deflect international attention from Kashmir.

The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Anshul Rana. (ANI)

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