US Stand On Kashmir Since Cold War End And Future Role – OpEd


The U.S. stand on the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan in the past has been influenced by the cold war dimension where Pakistan was a close ally for U.S. in the fight against communism. India is not at all satisfied with the consistent American stand on Kashmir that is against the interests of our country.

From the Indian side, it was been made very clear during the visit of General Corus and Admiral Kelso to New Delhi that Kashmir is and always will remain an integral part of India. This was in response to the questions raised by the American officials against India’s stand on Kashmir issue. The Indian Foreign Secretary during his visit to the U.S. in March 1992 responded very strictly that neither the U.S. nor Pakistan should expect India to compromise on its unity and territorial integrity. He made it very clear to the U.S. officials that any practical compromise had to necessarily take into account the ground realities and the tremendous changes that had occurred since 1947. He further stressed the fact that it would be futile to pressurize India to go back in time and start discussing the Kashmir issue in the pre-partition context. In any way India would adopt a valid stand.

The visit of the Foreign Secretary to Washington was a successful one because it was only after this visit one can witnesse a shift in the American position on Kashmir. This is reflected in the hearing held by the Sub-committee on Asia and Pacific Affairs of the House Committee on Foreign relations in March 1991 when Ms. Teresita Schaffer, Deputy Secretary of State, stated that the U.N. resolution requiring a plebiscite in Kashmir, which the U.S. had strongly supported in the past, were no longer tenable and it now favored bilateral negotiations to solve the problem within the framework of the Simla Agreement of 1972. It is only this time the U.S. talk of bilateral solution to the problem.i

Nevertheless, the problem arose when U.S. Deputy Secretary of State for South Asia, Mr. John Malott, without any concerned about the negative consequences of such statement went for a public declaration in his talk at India International Centre, New Delhi that the U.S. policy toward Kashmir will be guided by three principles- one is that the U.S. considers all of Kashmir to be disputed territory, on both sides of the LoC. The other two principles dealt with bilateral negotiation between India and Pakistan and the willingness of the U.S. to assist in the process if that is desired by both sides. India felt unhappy with the first principle that has gone against the spirit of Simla agreement.ii This was further worsened by the statement of the newly appointed as the Assistant Secretary of State, Ms. Robin Raphel, that in the U.S. policies and perceptions, Jammu and Kashmir remained a disputed area. She went on to elaborate that the U.S. did not consider the Instrument of Accession signed by the maharaja of Kashmir in October 1947, making Jammu and Kashmir a part of India, politically or legally valid. She even questioned the legitimacy of Kashmir accession to India which did not find favour in India. India was highly disappointed by all of these statements because it came at the time when the relationship has just started expanding after the Soviet disintegration.iii But when India raised an issue against her statement, the U.S. officials made it very clear that Washington did not view the issue in constitutional and legal terms but in terms of the existing ground realities and express that the only the U.S. interest is to avoid any form of war between the two Asian giants in the name of Kashmir.iv

However, very soon U.S. Administration realised the mistake committed on its part. In a bid to not allow such issue to become a roadblock, the U.S. State department arranged a meeting between Mr. Peter Tarnoff and the Indian Ambassador Mr. Siddhartha Shankar Ray in which the former assured India that the U.S. still consider the Simla Agreement as a basis for resolving the Indo-Pak differences over Kashmir. Finally the U.S. had to return back to its previous position.v

Since then the U.S. Administrations have even tried their best to resolving the issue but without success due to its one-sided stand taken that is favorable to Pakistan. This has led American Scholar Mr. Stephen Cohen to admit that, “the U.S.-Pakistan alliance is widely believed to have militarized Pakistani politics and foreign policy through the connection between the Pakistan Army and the United States, making it impossible for Delhi to come to accommodation with Islamabad over Kashmir.”vi

However, any American stand in Kashmir in the coming years is likely to be determined by the following factors:
a. Depth of India’s growing economic and military relationship with the U.S.
b. The level of Pakistan’s relevance to the United States and
c. India’s stand on the key international affairs.vii

Future U.S. Role in Resolving the Kashmir Dispute

However, with the recent the U.S. Administration committed to sustained engagement with both countries, the focus has shifted from direct and active intervention to promoting a composite dialogue between India and Pakistan. America today realized that one sided stand only exacerbate the issue rather than resolving it. The U.S. intervention would come only after the consent of the two countries. But the U.S. should help both countries in finding the common ground for the problem.viii

The former U.S. Administration led by President Mr. George W. Bush dislike of mediation in resolving the Kashmir dispute has given way to facilitation between the two countries. The U.S. will not give up working closely with both countries on the issue because of the fact that both are nuclear power countries that came very close to large scale war in two occasions after the detonation of nuclear tests by both countries. The U.S. knows very clearly that given the stand taken by both sides, the resolution of dispute is not likely to take place very soon, so there is a need for the U.S. role in preventing another major crisis from occurring. This was very clearly spelt out by former U.S. Ambassador to India Mr. Robert Blackwill that ‘the United States would facilitate two-party talks between India and Pakistan, but that it would not provide substance, a road map, or a blueprint’. A task force sponsored by two important American foreign policy institutions subsequently recommended (in September 2003) that the administration appoint a high-level official to aid and abet the India-Pakistan dialogue, especially on Kashmir, and assume a more “forward leaning” posture in attempting to deal with India-Pakistan crises before they start.ix

However, the resolution of the Kashmir issue has nothing to do with the U.S. It is up to the South Asian rivals on what steps they take on the issue and their seriousness. The role of the U.S. should be only to ensure that both sides engage in a serious and purposeful dialogue that would prevent any unwanted incidents from happening. Given the aggressive nature of Pakistan, United States should pressurise Pakistan to stop abetting cross border terrorism that would create an environment for the start of the purposeful dialogue. So far, it has been very clear that Pakistan proxy war and cross border terrorism has only delayed the prospects of resolution. Both sides should be encouraged to maintain understanding, increased trade and confidence building measures (CBMs).x


i. Subhash Shukla, Foreign Policy of India (New Delhi: Anamika Publishers, 2007), pp. 39-44.
ii. Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay, “Indo-US Relations and the Kashmir Issue”, in Ashok Kapur, et. al., (eds.), India and United States in a Changing World (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2002), pp. 522-23.
iii. Subhash Shukla, p. 49.
iv. Ibid., pp. 51-52.
v. Reeta Chowdhari Tremblay, p. 524.
vi. Abhay R. Karve, “Indo-US Strategic Relations: Moving from Estrangement to Engagement”, Paper submitted to the National War College, National Defense University, p. 41.
vii. Subhash Kapila, “United States Obsession with the Kashmir Issue: An Analysis”, South Asia Analysis Group (Noida), Paper no. 403, 30 January 2002.
viii. Saleem Kidwai, “US and South Asia: Post 9/11 Scenario”, in Saleem Kidwai (ed.), US Policy toward South Asia: Focus on Sixty Years (New Delhi: Academic Excellence, 2008), p. 37.
ix. Stephen Philip Cohen, The Idea of Pakistan (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 322.
x. Saleem Kidwai, pp. 44-45.

Dr. Mohammad Samir Hussain

Dr. Mohammad Samir Hussain is a Research Associate in the Yashwantrao Chavan National Centre of International Security and Defence Analysis, University of Pune, Pune. He can be reached at [email protected]

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