Arun Swamy: SOUTH ASIA'S 'TIT FOR TAT' ADDS LITTLE TO PEACE


Date: 06-28-2003

HONOLULU (June 28) -- The simultaneous state visits by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to Washington and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Beijing clearly show that South Asia is no closer to a lasting peace today than it was a year ago when war seemed imminent, an East-West Center specialist said.

"Indeed, although Musharraf broke new ground for South Asian dignitaries by being invited to Camp David, and Vajpayee succeeded in stealing Musharraf's thunder with what appeared to be a breakthrough on India's border conflicts with China, the reality was that none of the four parties involved in these meetings had really altered its established position on South Asia's various conflicts," said Arun Swamy, a South Asia expert.

Musharraf's visit received considerable attention in the weeks before it occurred, Swamy said. Musharaff was expected to offer concessions on issues important to the United States, including recognition of Israel and an offer of troops to help police Iraq. In exchange he would seek, in addition to military and economic aid, greater U.S. support of Pakistan's position in its dispute with India over Jammu and Kashmir, and approval to purchase F-16s in order to counter the Indian threat. As it turned out, however, very little new ground was broken.

The United States did offer Pakistan a generous $3-billion aid package, half in military aid. However, in the joint-press conference, U.S. President George Bush explicitly stated that none of this could be used to purchase F-16s, and he called for an end to "cross-border terrorism," which is India's term for the insurgency in its portion of Kashmir.

Musharraf, in a Thursday speech explicitly ruled out any solution to the dispute over Kashmir that ratified the status quo by turning the present Line of Control (ceasefire line) into an international border. Pakistan also did not appear to offer recognition of Israel or to participate in a peacekeeping force in Iraq, both of which the Bush administration has sought in an effort to demonstrate support for its objectives in the Muslim world, Swamy noted.

Half-a-world away, Indian and Chinese leaders were signing dramatic-sounding agreements on the status of Tibet and the Indian state of Sikkim that in reality merely restated their existing positions on these matters, Swamy said.

"The significance of this meeting is more in its timing. Coinciding with Musharraf's trip, the meeting in Beijing signals to Washington –- which has come to view India as a potential counterweight to China –- that India's options are open," Swamy said.

"It also sends a second, perhaps unintended signal to Pakistan and the rest of the world: India is more concerned with American and Chinese views on Kashmir than Pakistani ones. A negotiated settlement on the issue is as far off as ever."

Arun Swamy can be reached at (808) 944-7542 or swamya@EastWestCenter.org
This is an East-West Wire, copyright East-West Center