The Worst Little War You’ve Probably Never Even Heard Of…

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“To believe that India and Pakistan by themselves will make progress on this issue through bilateral dialogue-however desirable that would be in principle-is wishful thinking.” (1) The Indo-Pakistani dispute over the ownership of the small region Kashmir goes much deeper than a simple land dispute. When the British Raja left India in 1947, it created three sections of land: West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) for Muslims and left the rest of India for Hindus. The Raja allowed the ruler of Kashmir to choose which nation he wished to join. Even though the majority of Kashmiris were (and still are) Muslim, the ruler was Hindu, thus Kashmir officially joined India. So began the fighting. Add to this already volatile situation the possibility of nuclear warfare, and this is no longer a situation the United States can ignore. The U.S. should use economic aids as bribes to bring India to the mediation table while using threats of diplomatic isolation to bring Pakistan back to a democratic state before allowing them to the table.

A split approach is required to bring this situation to mediation because of the current attitudes of India and Pakistan. “Washington has long offered to mediate between Indian and Pakistan; while Pakistan has sought intervention, India, out of cold war-ear doubts about American intentions and its own great-power pride, has steadfastly declined.” (2) Pakistan, being the smaller country, is in greater need of outside assistance in this situation. Because of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship during the cold war, naturally they would turn to the United States for help. India, in contrast, feels betrayed by the U.S. As the largest democracy in the world, India expected the United States to side with them. It is because of these preconceived notions that the U.S. must bribe India while threatening Pakistan in order to bring about a resolution to the conflict.

The restoration of democracy to Pakistan must be the very first step in the mediation. After the military coup in October 1999, democracy was suspended and General Musharraf took control of the government. While Musharraf has announced schedules for local elections (not to begin until December 2000) (3), “…he recently curbed the independence of the judiciary and banned political rallies.” (4) If democracy is not realized in Pakistan, then diplomatic and economic isolation must be the reality. “The president, sources say, told General Musharraf that unless Pakistan conducts its policies in accord with a mainstream set of international norms…Pakistan will continue to break apart economically and politically and will become increasingly isolated in the community of nations.” (5) The world community cannot conduct business with a country in such political turmoil. Unless Pakistan makes a valid effort to restore order and democracy, western nations have no choice but to impose this isolation until such a time as an effort is made. Because Pakistan has asked for the mediation, they should be willing to meet this demand before mediation begins.

India, on the other hand, should be coerced to the mediation table with expanded trade and economic aid for improved schooling. “For the moment, trade between [India and the U.S.] is relatively small, $12 billion last year…But it [has] the potential for dramatic growth, especially with an expanding middle class with a taste for American consumer goods…” (6)Because of India’s expanding software industry, its middle class is also expanding. Trade; however, has not grown along with this expansion, mainly because of high tariffs and restrictions. In addition to expanding trade, aid should also be given to India for education. “If, for example, villages had computers with educational software, and printers, that would create a potential for a revolution in education in a country where almost fifty percent of the population is illiterate.” (6) By educating the lower and middle class, India would have one of the largest computer literate workforces in the world, translating into a larger economy. Large computer corporations would expand into India, creating more well paying jobs, decreasing the poverty level. Thus, by giving aid in the form of expanding trade and money for education in exchange for mediation, the United States would be treating India more like a peer in need, causing India to be more likely to accept the offer.

“The benefits to India and Pakistan of release from the compulsions bound up in this conflict would be enormous. It would unwind the major cause of bilateral nuclear and military confrontation, and free both countries to a great extent to concentrate politically and emotionally on economic development and basic societal needs.” (1) 

Basically, if India and Pakistan no longer felt the need to concentrate solely on the Kashmir issue, they would both be able to fix internal problems and hold a stronger position in the international community. India , with expanded trade and better schooling, would not only be the world’s largest democracy, they could also have the smallest poverty rate and the largest literate population. Pakistan, with newly restored democracy, would be well on its way to a resurrected economy, schooling and health-care system. Only through mediation can this conflict be resolved without more bloodshed.

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