Kashmiris disappointed with Obama's low-key approach on Kashmir dispute: WP
le in the Indian-occupied Kashmir are disappointed in President Barack Obama because the US leader has not engaged on Kashmir other that to say recently that the region's fate is in the hands of India and Pakistan alone, according to a dispatch in The Washington Post.
"Many Kashmiris celebrated when President Obama took office nearly a year ago, because he seemed to favour a more robust approach to bring stability to Kashmir, where human rights groups estimate that as many as 100,000 people have died in violence and dozens of Pakistan-backed militant groups have sprung up," The Post correspondent, Emily Wax, wrote from Srinagar.
At one point, the report noted the Obama administration contemplated appointing former president Bill Clinton as a special envoy to the region.
"When Obama came, there was so much hope to reclaim those happy times in Kashmir. But when it comes to human rights, we feel really let down. It's been nothing more than election rhetoric," Pervez Imroz, a Kashmiri lawyer and head of a coalition of civil society groups, was quoted as saying.
But, citing analysts, The Post report said Obama is working behind the scenes, treading a careful diplomatic path.
"The Obama administration is supporting the Indian government's talks, or what it calls 'quiet diplomacy,' with Kashmiri separatists groups to discuss options such as greater autonomy and demilitarization of the region," The Post said. "The talks are seen in India's capital and in Kashmir as a key development, with dialogue about the future of the region continuing even though attacks in Mumbai last year have derailed talks between India and Pakistan".
"Washington fears that any overt American interference in Kashmir could backfire and set back warming relations between India and the U.S.," Howard Schaffer, a retired Foreign Service official who is an expert on South Asia, was quoted as saying. Any mention of appointing a special envoy for Kashmir, he said, is "viewed as toxic waste in India."
"The Obama administration's apparent low-key approach to Kashmir belies the region's importance to the U.S. campaign against terrorism," correspondent Wax wrote. "Even more important for U.S. interests, though, is calming the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan over the region so that the Pakistani military can turn more of its attention to helping root out al-Qaeda members and other militants who have used isolated regions of Pakistan as a base for operations against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
"Easing tensions would also allow Pakistan to move more forcefully against Lashkar-i-Taiba, the Pakistan-based militant group implicated in the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, India's financial capital, which killed 165 people. India says the group is also smuggling fighters into Kashmir".
But some Kashmiris want more from Washington, The Post said.
"The Obama administration and India can't hide behind Mumbai. The U.S. has to engage with both India and Pakistan," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, was quote4d as saying. "If this opportunity is missed, all the ingredients are there for the cycle of violence to start again."
Human rights groups accuse India's government of killing civilians in its crackdown on militants, it noted.
"We want Washington to speak out against these tragedies," Imroz, the lawyer, said. "There has only been silence."
"In recent years, violence between militants and the Indian army has largely decreased," the report said, adding: "A new generation of Kashmiris has said it is committed to a nonviolent freedom movement.
But Kashmiris still grow angry at perceived wrongs.
"Protesters filled the streets this month after India's top investigating agency ruled that two young village women thought to have been raped and killed in the summer had drowned in a mountain stream".
"Many here (in Kashmir) view the findings as a cover-up to protect the Kashmiri officers working for Indian security forces. Others say the initial investigation was fabricated to frame security forces.
"Such incidents highlight the fragility of Kashmir's peace...", the dispatch added.