Dec 6, 2006

Stratfor's Analyses of Musharraf''s Kashmir Proposals

This is Stratfor's analyses of YAMM on Kashmir:

What is important about Musharraf's latest offer is its timing. The Pakistani president is facing considerable international pressure to prevent the Taliban and Kashmiri militants from using his country to stage attacks in Afghanistan and India, respectively. This issue has become particularly important in the wake of the NATO forces' inability to contain resurgent Taliban activity in Afghanistan. Coupled with the July 7 train bombings in Mumbai and increased Kashmiri militant activity in India overall, this places Musharraf in a difficult position. By making this offer, Musharraf hopes to counter accusations that Islamabad is backing militants while portraying India as the inflexible participant in the Indo-Pakistani talks.

Recently, we have seen a pattern emerge in Indo-Pakistani dealings over Kashmir: Pakistan urges India to begin serious negotiations to resolve the issue in hopes of gaining territorial adjustments. India reacts coldly and instead negotiates with the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), the main Kashmiri separatist alliance. The APHC is delighted to talk to New Delhi, but says it wants Islamabad in on the discussions. New Delhi responds by dragging its feet, which leads to renewed attacks by Kashmiri militants. India then blames Pakistan for the attacks and Islamabad responds by urging India to negotiate.

Musharraf knows his latest offer will not resonate with India. In reality, he has no concrete proposal -- he is just using backchannels and the media to float ideas. He is also exploiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent comment that New Delhi is against territorial adjustments but wants to make Kashmir's borders "irrelevant" -- offering his own formula for carrying out Singh's idea by taking it to the next level.

Musharraf does not actually believe India will take him up on this offer, but his long-term hope is that an autonomous Kashmir would tilt toward Pakistan, giving Islamabad influence in the region -- and bringing Pakistan close to its strategic goal of controlling Kashmir.

Throwing out such ideas also provides Pakistan with an opportunity to get ahead and shape the issue by creating a flurry of discourse while India refuses to accept any shifts in its policy or offer any counterproposals.

For now, however, the move allows Musharraf to throw the proverbial ball back in India's court. He hopes this will make India look bad, making it appear that India is rejecting Pakistan's bold overtures of peace. Such offers also allow Pakistan to continue to avoid taking any real steps to stem militant activity -- and even to continue backing militants -- without the fear of an Indian backlash.

This move not only benefits Musharraf on the foreign policy front, but also helps him at home with his attempts to seem in control of the situation despite mounting problems. Appearing to effectively manage Pakistan's relations with India allows Musharraf to sustain his support in both civil and military circles and keep the opposition divided, and thus at bay.

So this one was indeed a plant.

No comments: