India-Pakistan: May 27, 2000

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: During his visit to India and Pakistan, President Clinton renewed his offer for US diplomats to mediate the dispute. While India has consistently refused any outside mediation, this time it did agree to a series of secret and easily-deniable meetings. There are reasons why India's position has changed:

@ The US is now the dominant power in the world, and at least appearing to consider US views might yield productive results. Specifically, India wants a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and showing cooperation with the US might gain US support for this goal. This may produce other results, such as improved access to US technology.


@ The Indian military is increasingly concerned over the high cost of maintaining so many troops in Kashmir, a cost that has gone up sharply since the war last year.

@ The Indian government wants to build up its nuclear arsenal to oppose Chinese hegemony, and feels that if it can solve (or at least reduce) the Kashmir problem and the conflict with Pakistan, the world will be rather less concerned over this arsenal. The US has its own reasons for the initiative beyond simple altruism:

@ US business wants to sell products to the huge Indian market (actually as large as China's) and peace in the region will facilitate sales of consumer goods.

@ The US wants to stop or reduce the nuclear arms race, which cannot be halted while Kashmir remains an active conflict. India has recently released key Kashmiri leaders from prison so they can facilitate the talks, and these leaders are the key element of the US plan. The US knows that the insurgents won't negotiate with India on the basis of the Indian constitution, and are trying to find a formula that India would accept. If such a formula can be found, and some progress can be made, Pakistan would be brought into the talks.--Stephen V Cole

 

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