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A ‘grand bargain’ over Kashmir, Afghanistan

Don’t take it as a brain teaser from the American Mensa though it is attributable to two very intelligent people. Why it is more than a brain teaser is because they also happen to be two highly experienced South Asia hands who were part of the US establishment – Teresita Schaffer and Howard Schaffer. The teaser is about how to settle the Afghan problem. The Schaffers have done some lateral thinking and have come up with the answer. One can argue about the answers of many teasers and this is one such. 

The Schaffers judge – rightly so – that it is really a non-option for the US to consider Pakistan as a hostile power and to try to impose an Afghan settlement in the teeth of Pakistani opposition. The strategic alternative is to strike a “grand bargain” with Pakistan for stabilising Afghanistan, which would also involve India “at a later stage”. 
The deal involves accepting Pakistan’s regional “primacy” and leaving it to Pakistan to forge a settlement with the proviso that it will ensure Afghanistan never again becomes a revolving door of terrorism. Two, Pakistan should accept the LOC as international border as part of a package that includes various elements of the India-Pakistan relationship as well as the “rights of Kashmiris on both sides of the line to robust self-government.” 
The US on its part would maintain a “robust civilian and military partnership” with Pakistan and “in the context of Kashmir negotiations, the US could look at an updated security relationship” with Pakistan. The US would also mobilise efforts by the international community to “improve Pakistan’s long-term economic and security interests.” Schaffers wrote: “Bringing China at least tacitly on board would be the ideal… The US would also have to expend some diplomatic capital to dissuade India from trying to upset the balance in Afghanistan.” 
It isn’t too difficult to pick holes in the thesis, but the Schaffers are respected think tankers, wired into the US foreign policy establishment. Don’t overlook that the stage is set for the US to advance the New Silk Road [NSR] project at the forthcoming conference of Afghanistan’s neighbours at Istanbul on November 2. The Afghan settlement needs to mesh with the NSR project. And, without Pakistan, NSR is a non-starter. 
Our pundits still don’t get it that the NSR is what the war and the Afghan settlement is all about. They seem blissfully unaware that the scramble for Afghanistan’s mineral wealth has begun in right earnest. The big hitters are already out on the pitch and as Zalmay Khalilzad wrote last week, what is a 10-year war worth ultimately, if the US fails to garner the wealth of Afghanistan? The Schaffers are here

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7 Responses

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  1. Ibne Ashfaque says

    It is election time in America and Afghan war is not popular now in America. Hence, Americans must declare victory and down size their engagement in a manner that the media will make their public believe is a grand victory (such as the New Silk Route Project). The Indians will try to prop up the Northern Alliance or try to cut deals with Karzai, as they have been doing for the last decade, but will it be meaningful? Will it be sustainable?
    Since 2001 the ground realities have changed in this region. Pakistan desperately needs gas from Iran, and the Americans cannot continue to further sustain losses in Afghanistan. So far Pakistan has managed to extract a reasonable deal from the Americans, and limited support from the Chinese. The Taliban cannot dislodge the occupying forces on their own, though they can bleed them indefinitely. A few episodes are still left before this Afghan saga ends, but the writing is on the wall.
    The mutual interests of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan are converging and they are inching closer to one another, while Americans reluctantly have to down size their engagement in Afghanistan. India should use this opportunity to engage Pakistan in a comprehensive peace treaty involving, transit facility for India via Pakistan, the peace pipeline between Iran, Pakistan and India, demilitarisation of all of Kashmir and making Kashmir the common market place for Indian, Pakistani, Afghan and Chinese businesses. I pray that the Indian elite are able to objectively assess the ground realities and do some out of the box thinking, based on a win-win strategy and not the win-loose option of the last six decades.

  2. James Charvaka says

    1. It is a fact that the American people are sick of the Afghan war, so it is a fact that the US cannot force the conclusion to Afghanistan down Pakistan’s throat. It simply doesn’t have the political will.

    2. The rest of the Shaffer’s “thinking” is simply what is best for the US. This is understandable, considering their audience. America’s ultimate interest is peace in the region so Business can begin. By Business I mean the removal of Afghan mineral wealth, the creation of pipelines and roadways to do so, and in theory, those jobs will help lift the Afghan economy.

    3. India’s interests are different, even Pakistan must surely know this. The Shaffer plan essentially means India would have to accede political ascendancy to Pakistan with regards to Afghanistan, and “in return” get the part of Kashmir already in its control. This is nonsense.

    A better alternative should be the following:

    Afghanistan should be vivisected. A north Afghanistan where there are little to no Pashtus can be guarded by a Coalition (including UN troops, India, Japan, US, etc.). A southern Afghanistan can be an essential Pashtunistani region. Let the Taliban negotiate their return to this area.

    Pakistan’s influence in the south won’t be stoppable, and to some degree that will be what is conceded. Diplomatic, military, geo-strategic, pressure would continue so as Pakistan doesn’t gain too much influence, but essentially Pakistan’s claims would be given fair recognition.

    The north would reject Pakistan, and give India and others a conduit to strengthen the north’s economy, and standing. It is also far more valuable geographically as it connects to Central Asia. Even a connection to India is not too far off from northeastern Afghanistan (and I will get to that).

    Both regions (countries if you will) should agree to their own building with the understanding that eventually Afghanistan would be reunified once both are economically viable.

    Eventually, with economic value, a reunification would likely create a more independent Afghanistan for the simple reason the north should in theory do better economically, and would therefore be in the driver seat.

    As far as India is concerned, its influence over the north would allow it to help the Afghans grow tremendously, which is good both for them as well as India. India’s “on the ground” actions in the South too would secure influence.

    No agreement on Kashmir should be made vis-a-vis this idea, except that Pakistan would open up trade via the Northern Areas. This would give India connection to the north, and allow its policy of building the north (as well as central Asia) to be fulfilled.

  3. Vijay Rajvaidya says

    Sure…and the assumption is that India will just roll over and let this happen. What seems absolutely true is that Schaffers are wired into the US foreign policy establishment. Why would otherwise US foreign policy go wrong in so many places in the world. Schaffers may dream about whatever they file llike and color it with “vision” to sell to US state department, India needs to watch out for these “thinkers”. They are guided by power and fear and therefore they will accommodate only those who they fear. There is no doubt that even a failing state like Pakistan has instilled fear in American minds. Hopefully India will stand firm and not let “London conference” situation recur. Only India and Pakistan can truly resolve Afghanistan problem and the mineral wealth should be shared only by Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Trade talks with Pakistan should expand into cooperation in building Afghanistan. But then Pakistan army has to start thinking…how can that happen is anybody’s guess.

  4. Samir Bhagwat says

    The battle for Afghanistan was lost the moment, Bush Jr. foolishly changed tracks and went charging to Iraq. If he and America stayed focussed on Afghanistant while the Taleban was still in disarray, the story would have been completely different.

  5. tick says

    It is no lateral thinking, simply continuation of Kissingerian paradigm premised on ideas like power vacuum, real-politics, payoffs, and the specific context which India, Afghanistan, Iran, Tibet, Xinjiang and CIS states have been dealing with, the creation of Sino-Pak-US axis since 1970. This line of thought Indian Left has called as neo-imperialism.

    This kind of geo-political intervention have been taking place for only one reason, that Pakistan has been willing to play the ball with G2, directed not so much by its real developmental and cultural needs but surreal notions like power-parity with India, become the leading nation of Islamic world. The price the extended neighbourhood of Pakistan has paid for its machination is very severe, with two nations under colonial rule, one nation outside global economic mainstream, terror infliction on two nations. The good fallout has been emergence of CIS nations from Soviet splinter.

    We need to reject the Kissingerian ideas in favor of ideas like civil democracy, international law, market economy, environmental rights, and evolve legal concepts which clarify the rights of land ownership, mechanisms for property valuation and fair market mechanisms. In modern world where most of the wealth creation is in form of intellectual capital, there is adequate scope for enhanced valuation of mineral rights, its environmental friendly exploitation and percolate benefits to the indigenous population.

    It is quite likely that centers of civilizational advancement which have sprouted mostly in Europe and US, while recently emerging in Pacific ream consisting of Japan, S Korea and China, may also move to the sub-continent and even West Asia. The enabler of such a scenario depends critically on mutual trust between India and Pakistan.

  6. prabhat mishra says

    What a think tank ……its just a wishful thinking .Pakistan is not a nation ruled by simple people , its a country where hardened criminals get state shelter and petronage . Its a country where when a governer is killed people rejoice on street .Its a country where there is a open market for AK-47 you can but it from a roadside vendor . Only grand solution could be dismantle the pakistan and give freedom to Baluchistan , give part of NFWP to Afganistan . Regarding Kasmir In Indian Part Create Laddakh and Jammu as Seperate state or make them Union Territory and Make a Unified Valley Part of Indian Nation than have a plebisite what they want .

  7. Saul says

    but haven’t the Taliban upset and crushed this whole narrative. Also, don’t forget neither Iran or Pakistan as well as the all important Afghan people tolerate the US occupation. The US occupation can not last and has drained the US economy beyond dry which leaves regional nations on a joint strategic unity to ignore and cancel out the US’s plans. It would be best to look at the Taliban in regards to any formation of a trade route. China is not going to go along with something that is aimed against them.

    US has no clear friend in the region, so their ideas are pretty foolish- almost dreams. As long as there is a US presence in the region, there will be no peace or security. Iran, Pakistan, China, Russia, and even India are fully aware of this, so it is like the US is talking to a wall.

    I guess one should rephrase the term, ” it is lonely at the top” to “it is lonely at the bottom.”

    The fact that now twice the US has made numerous threats of war against both Iran and Pakistan, only to later back of underscores the simple fact that no one is taking them seriously anymore. Put this next to the fact that they are leaving Iraq with no real victory at all.

    The Afghan exit is here as Kissinger said, and it is certainly gameover for the US.

    How do they even discuss silk road when Taliban control majority of Afghanistan?

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