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Resolving Kashmir will not satisfy LeT: Experts

Source: PTI
March 13, 2010 10:12 IST
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A resolution of Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan would no longer satisfy the Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the terrorist outfit responsible for 26/11 and the attack on Indian Parliament would continue to pose a serious threat to both India and the western world in particular the US, top experts have told American lawmakers.

"There is no doubt in my mind that we have to find ways to resolve the issues relating to Kashmir. But I think resolving Kashmir is not going to solve the problems relating to the LeT," Ashley J Tellis, senior associate at the prestigious Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told US lawmakers at a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

"Resolving the Kashmir problem by itself is not going to remove this threat because the aim of these groups is to leverage themselves into a position of power inside Pakistan and to take control," said eminent Pakistani scholar, Shuza Nawaz, Director, South Asia Centre, the Atlantic Council of the United States.

Both Nawaz and Tellis were responding to concerns of the US Congressmen at the hearing if the LeT would abandon terrorism if Kashmir dispute was resolved; given that the Lashkar was initially popped up by the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan for the specific purpose of targeting Kashmir and India in particular.

"I always find it interesting that the people conducting the murder and mayhem (in the Valley) today are not Kashmiri. The people who actually are deprived of all their political rights, they are not conducting the murder and mayhem," Tellis said.

"The murder and mayhem is being conducted by groups that have absolutely no connections to Kashmir. To my mind that is story, the fact that this is a group that has operations in 21 countries, that has an ideology that is completely anti-Western, that is opposed to modernity and secularism and all the kinds of values that we take for granted. This group is not going to be satisfied by dealing with the issue of Kashmir," Tellis said.

Testifying before the same committee, Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation, referred to the Musharraf formula on resolving the Kashmir dispute, which the then Pakistani president made in a statement in December 2006.

"He (Musharraf) made a very important statement in December of 2006, where he said Pakistan would be willing to give up its claim on Kashmir if four things happen. He said, if the Line of Control that divides Kashmir was made irrelevant, which means people could freely pass back and forth could pass back and forth," said Curtis, who is known as an American authority on South Asia.

"Two, (Musharraf said) if Kashmir was given greater autonomy. Three, if both sides could figure out a joint mechanism to interact, to have the two sides of Kashmir, Pakistani Kashmir and Indian Kashmir interact. So he made a very forward-looking proposal.

"And as we know by Steve Coll, who wrote about this in the New Yorker Magazine not too long ago, they were very close to coming to some kind of agreement or understanding on Kashmir," Curtis said.

Except for Congressmen Dan Burton tended to agree with the observations made by these eminent experts. Burton, who is well-known for his anti-India approach at the Congress, believed otherwise.

"I wish all of the experts and the people in the governments involved, as well as the US would make as their number one goal resolving the issues that have been prevailing for a long, long time. And that is resolving the issue of Kashmir," he argued.

"I think the only way to do that is to get the Pakistani government and the India government and the people in Kashmir together and resolve some way for them to solve that problem in Kashmir that's been existing since 1948. Until you get that done, you're not going to solve this problem.

"India can't attack Pakistan because if they do, Pakistan's got the ability to retaliate with a nuclear weapon and vice versa. So the killing's going to go on and the festering that's created from this impasse is just going to grow," he said.

Noted Pakistani scholar Shuja Nawaz earlier said, "The LeT represents -- a word that's been used often -- a Frankenstein's monster created for the purpose of assisting the Kashmiri freedom movement, but that ended up becoming a powerful Sunni Punjabi movement with an independent agenda that appears to have taken on a broader regional role."

It was born out of the US-backed Afghan jihad against the Soviets, and built on the training provided by that war to Punjabi fighters who could then inculcate Kashmiri fighters in their ways.

Successive civil and military leaders of Pakistan supported the movement as a strategic asset to counter a powerful India to the East and to force it to negotiate for a settlement of the disputed territory by waging a war of, quote, "a thousand cuts", he told the lawmakers.

"Over time, however, the sponsored organisation took a life of its own, finding the economically disadvantaged area of Central and Southern Punjab to be a fertile territory for recruitment of Jihadi warriors," he said over time, the ISI began losing its control as the LeT became self sufficient.

"But the realisation that the LeT had become autonomous was slow in being understood or accepted in the ISI and by the military leadership of Pakistan under General Pervez Musharraf," he said.

"General Musharraf did make an effort to lower the political temperature in Kashmir and began distancing the state from the LeT. However, the process was not handled as well as it could have.

Similar to the disbanding of the Iraqi army after the US invasion when thousands of trained soldiers and officers were let go, the LeT was cut loose without a comprehensive plan to disarm, re-train, and gainfully employ the fighters."

A dangerous corollary was the induction into the militancy of some former members of the military who had trained and guided them in their war in Kashmir, Nawaz said. Congressman Gary Ackerman said there is a temptation to think that the LeT is really India's problem, that the LeT is just interested in the so-called "liberation" of Jammu and Kashmir.

"While it's true that the primary area of operations for the LeT has historically been the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu region, the LeT has also undertaken repeated and numerous mass casualty attacks throughout India and, in particular, directed at the Indian government. But the idea that this group can be appeased on the subject of Kashmir is dangerous nonsense," he said.

"The LeT's true goal is not Kashmir, it is India. And the LeT is not shy about announcing that its intention is to establish an Islamic state in all South Asia.

Neither does it hide or try to play down its declaration of war against all Hindus and Jews, who they insist are "enemies of Islam", Ackerman said.

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