|CONFLICT IN KASHMIR|
June 1, 1999
Tensions between India and Pakistan intensified as Indian forces bombed Islamic guerrillas in the disputed territory of Kashmir. After an ITN background report, two experts assess the situation in South Asia.
JIM LEHRER: Some further perspective on the conflict. Michael Krepon is the president of the Henry Stimson Center, a nonprofit organization focusing on arms control and security issues. Paula Newberg is an independent consultant, who's written extensively about Pakistani and South Asian affairs.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Krepon, is there a danger of this spinning out of control, as Ian Williams just said?
MICHAEL KREPON, Henry Stimson Center: There are a number of flash points to be avoided - but I don't think either government has an interest in escalating to the nuclear level here.
|Refocusing attention on the Kashmir issue.|
JIM LEHRER: So what's going on?
MICHAEL KREPON: Well, I think the government of Pakistan has decided to try and put the Kashmir issue back on the front page at a time when the United States government and the Indian government have been distracted.
JIM LEHRER: And, putting it back on the front page by what, by putting -- in other words, you agree with the charges from India, that these are Pakistani-backed guerrillas that are going over the border and causing problems for the Indians?
MICHAEL KREPON: Kashmiris don't live in this terrain. We're talking about elevations of 16,000 feet and higher. It's barren. The folks have to come there from somewhere. The scope of this military operation is such, the equipment involved, the logistics, the communications support that would be necessary for an activity of this kind has to come from somewhere. And the most likely source would be Pakistan.
JIM LEHRER: And their motivation, the Pakistani motivation would be, as you say, is to bring attention to the Kashmir issue?
MICHAEL KREPON: And to embarrass and cause great discomfort to the government of India, which works domestically in Pakistan.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Ms. Newberg, do you buy that?
PAULA NEWBERG, Consultant: To some extent. I wouldn't say that this particular action was designed to put Kashmir back on the international agenda, but, rather, that for the last year the Pakistan government has been endeavoring to persuade the world that, indeed, it had succeeded in putting the issue back on the agenda. This is the season, however, in which action can be arranged.
|"The fighting season."|
JIM LEHRER: Explain that. What does that mean?
PAULA NEWBERG: It's summer, and we're talking about --
JIM LEHRER: You mean it's summer there as well as here.
PAULA NEWBERG: Oh, absolutely. We're talking about some of the world's highest mountains. This is a very hard terrain in which to fight, and generally in Kashmir, as in Afghanistan, fighting takes place during a fighting season; this is it.
JIM LEHRER: A fighting season?
PAULA NEWBERG: Yes.
JIM LEHRER: It's been going on for how long?
PAULA NEWBERG: Well, this particular bit of insurgency and Indo-Pakistan tension has been going on for 10 years, but there have been earlier periods in the last 50 years where they've been fighting as well.
JIM LEHRER: So you would agree, then, that this is not an attempt by -- well, we'll get to the Indian response in a minute -- but this is not an attempt by Pakistan, if in fact, you all -- your all's theory is right, that they're behind all of this to really cause a major military confrontation with India.
PAULA NEWBERG: My sense is that probably Pakistan and India both overreached what they may have been intending to do. It's my sense that over the last several months there has been an effort in two ways: On the one hand, to provide a public relations forum in which it looks as though India and Pakistan are beginning to get along, although there have been very few material efforts made to make that into a real policy. On the other hand, Kashmir --
JIM LEHRER: Now, just for those who don't follow this closely, the getting along came -- was the March bus diplomacy --
PAULA NEWBERG: That's right.
JIM LEHRER: -- where the two heads of the government came together with a launching of a new bus company, a bus line between India and Pakistan.
PAULA NEWBERG: That's correct. And it was seen as a hallmark of future relations in which tensions would begin to decrease. That could still happen; however, in order for that Lahore agreement, that meeting to have real effect, it's necessary to solve Kashmir. There are really two ways of looking at this. One is that you have a better and bigger diplomacy, and that helps you to reconcile this issue. The other is that reconciling both sides to a solution in Kashmir is a necessary prerequisite to making any other kind of diplomacy work. And the Lahore agreement in March did not really arbitrate between those two sides. In effect, it tried to put it aside. And what you're seeing now is a consequence.
|The significance of the situation.|
JIM LEHRER: All right. Now, let's begin with you, Mr. Krepon. Let's -- for those who don't follow this very carefully, in a nutshell, how would you describe the conflict over Kashmir? In other words, what is India's position about this piece of land and what is Pakistan's?
MICHAEL KREPON: Land has been divided since the subcontinent divided into an independent India and Pakistan -- 1947 -- two wars. The government of India has said that the solution lies in the two countries solving it together, by themselves, without outside interference. The government of Pakistan says there has to be --
JIM LEHRER: We have a map there that shows that line of control that the soldiers were talking to Ian Williams about, and okay -- keep talking.
MICHAEL KREPON: It's really a cease-fire line.
JIM LEHRER: That has been there since 1947.
MICHAEL KREPON: Well, the second war was somewhat later, but it's -- it hasn't changed very much. The Indian government says we ought to have -- we ought to solve it by ourselves. The Pakistani government says we ought to have an election in what they call Indian-held Kashmir, or, even better, we ought to get the international community in to help us sort this out.
JIM LEHRER: What would you add to that?
PAULA NEWBERG: I think in some respects we've got two wars going on. One is a war between India and Pakistan, and that war is being fought over the heads of the second war, which has kind of gradually moved off the front pages of the news here, and that is the war about what kind of disposition people in Kashmir -- Kashmiris want for their future political life. Now, what happens is that periodically the war between India and Pakistan, the tensions that arise over --
JIM LEHRER: Which have been there from the very beginning.
PAULA NEWBERG: In many ways, yes, but not consistently and not always so persistently. That war occasionally trumps the other one. In fact, what --
JIM LEHRER: Wait a minute. In other words, there is built-in tension between Pakistan and India, and Kashmir is a manifestation of it at various times. In other words, you could solve the big -- the big picture has not been solved, so that means the little one hasn't either.
PAULA NEWBERG: That's right. And you could try solving one or the other. Probably you can't solve either unless you solve both together.
|A failure of bus diplomacy?|
MICHAEL KREPON: It's a mess, and in Lahore, when the two prime ministers met on their bus diplomacy, they offered a new way forward, and I was pretty optimistic about it.
JIM LEHRER: You said that on this program, in fact.
MICHAEL KREPON: On this program.
JIM LEHRER: Yes.
MICHAEL KREPON: And the two prime ministers pledged in public and in writing to avoid tension-producing actions, to avoid escalation, to negotiate risk reduction measures. And what's transpired in the last couple of weeks has really created a whole new set of problems, including problems for the credibility of this government in Pakistan.
JIM LEHRER: And this thing -- where does the nuclear issue come -- come into play, and how important is that, because the rest of the world, the last time we talked about India and Pakistan, before the bus diplomacy, was the concern, the exchange of nuclear tests, and all of that, and there was a concern, what that would -- over that naturally. Now, does that play into this situation that's going on now?
PAULA NEWBERG: I think in the first instance it plays into it as a context setter -- I think one of the reasons that Pakistan has believed that it could influence what the international agenda was in South Asia was because it saw itself as having declared its nuclear status and therefore being able to be treated differently. India, on its side --
JIM LEHRER: They wanted a bigger seat at the table?
PAULA NEWBERG: They would like -- they would like to be able to help design the shape of the table. India believes that, in effect, it already has the upper hand, and that the world's response to its declared nuclear power in this last year has been quiet enough and short lived enough to make it believe that there is no reason to worry. As a consequence, you have two countries, both of whom may be a bit more expansive in the way that they threat one another; than perhaps conditions really dictate. In the first instance it's really a contextual one.
JIM LEHRER: How should the rest of us look at this, the rest of us in the world look at what's going on? Is this a potential for a serious, serious eruption, or is this something that we should just kind of let them work it out, if they -- they haven't done it since 1947, there are going to continue to be various problems?
MICHAEL KREPON: The last war was 1971. And that's a long time that's passed without a full-blown war. They've had crises, and surrogate wars in the interim, and what's happening in Kashmir is a surrogate war. Pakistan saw the nuclear weapon as the great equalizer for India, and we have this highly, highly structured theory of deterrence in the West, where when countries have equalizers, they act with great restraint, and they work out their problems. That theory is being tested in South Asia right now, because this government in Pakistan sees the nuclear weapon, at least up 'til now, not only as the great equalizer but as an opportunity to increase tensions and get more attention to a problem that they want help on.
|The probability of escalation.|
JIM LEHRER: Do you see it the same way?
PAULA NEWBERG: Similarly, I think. My concern would be that we not jump to conclusions too rapidly. When we last sat here, Michael sounded like the optimist, and I sounded like the pessimist, so I think it may be time to reverse this. It may be that in overreaching initially, both governments will see reason and begin to work their way back a bit. And the fact that the foreign ministers of both countries are meeting, the fact that the prime ministers have spoken together, is something that hasn't happened with such rapidity in the past. So in that sense, we don't know yet whether there is real reason to worry. On the other hand, if this sparks off continued controversy at a time when the Indian government is about to enter into an election in which being tough on Kashmir is a real priority and both major parties in India have already expressed this, and if Pakistan, which is already considerably engaged in a campaign to crack down on domestic dissent, believes that this is a way of showing strength, is a way of not being perceived as weak, we could end up with an escalation that is not anyone's intention but turns out to be the kind of accident in the making, and I think that's what is of most concern to people outside. It is, I think, also of concern to people in the subcontinent.
JIM LEHRER: All right.
MICHAEL KREPON: There are a couple of important things to avoid. Number one, moving strike forces from their garrisons right now. Number two, moving missiles, including nuclear-capable missiles.
JIM LEHRER: Who is doing that? Pakistan?
MICHAEL KREPON: Right now, nobody is doing any of the above. It's real important --
JIM LEHRER: But when we say that come over the wires or hear that on the radio, then we should be concerned?
MICHAEL KREPON: Then you should be concerned.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Thank you very much -- both of you.