Fri, Feb 24, 2017 | updated 12:23 AM IST

Kashmir not on Obama Administration's radar

Updated: Aug 24, 2016 11:54 IST

By Anshul Rana

Washington D C, Aug.24 (ANI): Even as India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh began a significant two-day visit of the Kashmir Valley from Wednesday, accompanied by a delegation of senior ministry officials, where he will take stock of the situation in the state and hold talks with a cross section of people, analysts in Washington have cautioned Pakistan not to attempt to internationalise the recent Kashmir protests.

They have said that such attempts are most likely to fail, as the unrest in the valley has "not registered significantly" in the West, and they also hold the view that there is no reason for Kashmir to get back on the global map in any meaningful way.

"The Pakistanis have tried it for years, lobbying in the UN, Washington and elsewhere trying to get key western capitals to focus on Kashmir and they have largely failed," says Michael Kugelman, Senior Associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington DC.

Ahead of his second visit to the Kashmir Valley in a month, the Indian Home Minister said he will use his two-day visit to interact with civil society groups, political parties and other stakeholders in Kashmir. He said those who believe in "Kashmiriyat, Insaniyat and Jamhooriyat" are welcome to meet him.

He added that the government at the Centre is very concerned and pained over the violence in Kashmir and is keen on having and promoting an emotional connect with the people of the state.

Singh is likely to emphasize the various development projects and employment schemes undertaken for the youth in the valley.

Analysts in the United States believe that Pakistani attempts to involve the United States will not work as the focus in Washington is on the presidential campaign and on other foreign policy issues that are seen as having a more direct bearing on U.S. interests such as ISIS, the Middle East, Russia and so forth.

The United States is more likely to offer the usual platitudes for the two countries to talk very generally avoiding specific Kashmir references as there is a strong desire in Washington to de-hyphenate its relations with Pakistan and India, which includes maintaining a workable relationship with the Pakistanis while developing deeper relationship with India.

"For now, at least, the U.S. government's muted remarks on Kashmir suggest a recognition of the tough circumstances under which India is trying to maintain law and order and constitutional democracy," says Sadanand Dhume, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

However Kugelman points out that the measures used by Indian security forces against protesters in Kashmir "seem to be out of proportion with reality on the ground" and, if the violence continues over the next few weeks, international media attention will intensify and may affect India's image.

Protests in the valley that began after security forces gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani have left over 56 dead and 4000 injured.

Both India and Pakistan have blamed each other for instigating the violence, resulting in a diplomatic war of words, and the Indian Prime Minister including references to Balochistan in his Independence Day speech.

Some analysts are looking at the latest round of tension between the two nations as part of the cycle of a war of words that has so often dominated this relationship when it comes to Kashmir.

However the present war of words is seen as a reflection of a very "inconsistent even incoherent policy" of the Modi government.

"There has never been a clear cut policy in the Modi government towards Pakistan and, I think, Modi in some ways was trying to test the waters. He wanted to see what the results are when he tries to take some small conciliatory steps", says Kugelman.

But after the Lahore visit was followed by the Pathankot attacks, analysts believe, Modi might have concluded that now is not the time for conciliatory gestures as the public messaging from Pakistan about the willingness to talk isn't backed by any significant level of support to getting closer to India in a big way.

Analysts also believe that the Indian side may have concluded that the generals hold so much control behind the scenes in Pakistan that it's not worth trying to engage in conciliatory moves at this point, and therefore, now is the right time to up the ante and make some pretty bold proclamations.

In this context, the mention of Baluchistan in the Independence Day speech of the Indian Prime Minister can be seen as a signal that the country is not going to be afraid to take measures that previously have been avoided by the Indians for fear of provoking the Pakistanis.

"Modi's remarks appear to be a thinly veiled warning to Pakistan. He's effectively saying, 'be careful of stirring up trouble in Indian Kashmir lest India return the favor in Baluchistan'," says Dhume.

While it is too soon to tell if the mention of Baluchistan in the Independence Day speech reflects a policy change in India, analysts feel that it certainly marks "a rhetorical shift" and undoubtedly gives the troubled Pakistani province "a prominence that it did not enjoy before in India."

However there is also the view that by mentioning Baluchistan in his speech, the Indian Prime Minister was simply trying to deflect international attention from Kashmir.

The views expressed in the above article are that of Mr. Anshul Rana. (ANI)

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