Saturday, February 06, 2010

Steve Coll Interview

Perhaps I link it because it echoes what I understand and believe.

Quoting one section:

There are many, particularly in Pakistan, who believe that if you resolve Kashmir you take out the real cause of terrorism in South Asia. Do you agree?

I don't believe that at all. But Kashmir is an impediment to broader changes between India and Pakistan that are necessary to gradually eliminate the structural causes of persistent terrorism in India and Afghanistan. That is to say, change the practices of the Pakistani security services. In the medium run, how do you break the cycle of clandestine war between India and Pakistan, the use of jihadi groups? The only way you break that pattern is the same way similar conflicts have ended in other parts of the world - in the Balkans, in Southeast Asia - where economic integration and shared prosperity changes the incentive structure for the Pakistani army where they see that their own interests are better served by open, managed borders. Everybody in Pakistan knows that India's prosperity is the big story of the region in the next 20-30 years. Pakistan can either be an impediment to that or be a part of it.

And that probably reflects sentiments in Kashmir too where there is growing ambivalence about Pakistan...

Absolutely. In fact, your newspaper (The Times of India) has quoted Manmohan Singh as saying that India was "very close to a non-territorial settlement" in 2007. I love that language. Because that's the right way to think about this. What you're trying to do in Kashmir is to buy time for these other effects to take hold, and for both countries to share a period of war-free economic growth, middle class formation and cultural accommodation. It doesn't have to be peace, love and harmony. It just needs to be normalisation - the sort that you see between Serbia and Croatia.

In order to buy that 20 years, you don't have to settle every line on the map. You have to put in place a framework in which you agree on some broad principles and agree to no longer pursue those goals through violence. It's just creating a framework where the broader process of peaceful economic and cultural integration can occur. That's the only way forward. You have to be realistic though. When you announce peace, those who have an interest in the violence will react, they will try to blow it up. The question is how much capacity the Pakistani state has to do its bit. The problem is that India understandably doesn't believe that Pakistan has the will. If India thought Pakistan had the will, it would have a realistic approach to its capacity problems. But you can't accept the capacity excuse when you don't think the other side is serious.

Won't the Pakistani military establishment keep Kashmir alive?

Musharraf brought around the [Pakistani] corps command to this deal in 2007. It was interesting when I was reporting on this in Pakistan and you asked the question: What was the winning argument in the corps command meetings? First of all, Musharraf was at the peak of his authority, but there were three winning arguments. One was that if we want to modernise an army and defend Pakistan's territorial integrity while India modernises its army, we need more money than our current growth rates can support. We already take a huge share of Paksitan's GDP. We need the whole pie to grow. We need economic peace just to defend ourselves. The second argument was that we can achieve acceptable goals in Kashmir by political means that we cannot by guerilla violence. Let's accept it, our strategy isn't working. The Indians have defeated the insurgency, they have been able to create enough political normalcy in their part of Kashmir. We can keep throwing rocks, but why not create an outcome that history will recognise as just through political negotiations. The final argument was international legitimacy. The Pakistani army for all of it crazy self-defeating policies also craves recognition as a legitimate army, an unusually good fighting force. Musharraf personally wanted to go Oslo and be awarded the peace prize with Manmohan Singh (laughs). These factors are still there in the psyche, but the problem is that the Pakistani government is in no position to come back to that.