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President Obama’s foreign policy expedition:
India, Pakistan and China

By Syed Mahmood

President Obama, on his recent trip to India in the first week of November was trying to play a balancing act of the United States foreign policy as applied to India and Pakistan. Since 9/11, Pakistan has emerged as a strategically important country for the U.S. The Indian economic growth offers American business the impetus to sell their services and products to the Indian market. The American Administration sees that India and Pakistan are both essential countries for American security in the region. The war in Afghanistan will not come under control without the help and participation of the Pakistani Government. America also sees the economic boom and military buildup of China as a threat to her national interest. India could play a balancing role with the help of the United States in the region, but India may not like to take this responsibility and risk confronting China.

A genuine peace between the two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, is the prerequisite for the United States to achieve her objectives in the region. India and Pakistan gained their independence from British rule on the basis of religion in August, 1947. Since then, both countries have been engaged in conflicts and wars with each other.

After their independence, Indian Prime Minister Nehru decided to visit Moscow, and later, joined the non-allied movement. India supported the former Soviet Union’s positions on the international conflicts against the West and the United States. The Pakistani Prime Minister, Liaquat Ali Khan was invited for a visit by the American President, Harry Truman. As a result of that visit in 1954, the United States signed two Mutual Defense Agreements, SEATO and CENTO, with Pakistan. Since 1957, the U.S. used a Pakistani airbase in Peshawar to fly U-2 planes to spy on the Soviet Union. One U-2 was shot down by the Soviets. Pakistan’s economic and military assistance were cut off a few times by the U.S., because Pakistan was developing nuclear technology.

In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The United States then lifted their embargo against Pakistan. The U.S., Pakistan and Saudi Arabia provided complete support to Afghan Mujahidin to fight against the Soviets. Osama bin laden was also part of the Afghan struggle against the Soviets with his followers. In 1988, the Soviets were defeated and they had to withdraw from Afghanistan.

On October 1, 1990, the United States again suspended all military and new economic assistance to Pakistan, under the country-specific law that singled out Pakistan on the nuclear issue known as the Pressler Amendments. America wanted to punish Pakistan for her nuclear quest -- Pakistan’s help was not needed any more.

In 1980, Pakistan agreed to pay $658 million for 28 F-16 fighter jets from the U.S. The American administration kept the money and fighter jets, because Pakistan would not give up her nuclear ambition.

After 9/11, the United States again needed Pakistan’s help to invade Afghanistan and finish off Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Since Pakistan felt threatened by the George Bush administration, the Pakistanis were very upset about the start of war in Afghanistan. During this war, Pakistan has lost thousands of civilians and soldiers while fighting the American war and they have been there day and night every day. Even then, the U.S. wants Pakistan to do more. Pakistanis would like to see the U.S. get out of the region and they blame America for the waves of violence in the country. Pakistanis do not believe that the United States could be a reliable friend.

According to the agreement of independence between India, Pakistan and the British in regards to the Princely States within the borders of these countries, the Nawabs and Maharajas were free to join either side. The rulers of Hyderabad and Junagadh decided to join Pakistan. India then used force to annex these states, because the majority of the populations were Hindus. 

The Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir’s Maharaja Hari Singh, according to the Indian Government, signed a document to join India. India has failed to produce that document for the last sixty three years. In the month of October, 1947, the tribesmen and Maharaja’s forces, with the help of the Indian Government fought several battles. On October 27th, regular Indian troops started their fight to capture the Srinagar airfield. The state of Kashmir was at that time left under Indian and Pakistani control.

In 1948, the United Nation’s resolutions promised the people of Kashmir to have an election to decide the future of Kashmir. The Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, on all India Radio on November 2, 1947, promised the people of Kashmir that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the Kashmiris by the results of their vote under the auspices of the United Nations.

At present, India has around 700 thousand military and paramilitary forces in Kashmir. Also, in the Pakistani controlled area, a sizeable Pakistani Army is facing the Indian forces. Up to this time, around 80,000 Kashmiris have lost their lives fighting against Indian occupation. As expected, Pakistan supports the Kashmiri insurgency.

President Obama cannot use superficial diplomacy and expect to promote peace between India and Pakistan while remaining insincere. Without the just resolution of the issue of Kashmir, there will be no peace in the region. India takes great pride in being the World’s largest Democracy and India herself is denying the same option of voting to the 11 million people of Kashmir. If India thinks that force will subdue the Kashmiri people’s desire for their freedom, they should think again. The United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Army in the tribal areas are unable to win this war. What makes India believe that she alone would be able to deal with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Kashmiri Mujahidin? As American forces will be withdrawn from the area, India should not undermine the power of these modern age insurgencies. Wars are fast becoming an obsolete way of resolving issues between nations.

Around fifty percent of the population of India and Pakistan lives below the level of poverty, however, Kashmir is an issue of conflict between them. The International community cannot sweep the issue of Kashmir under the rug. India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people have to find an honorable solution through negotiation. India has no choice but to honor her commitment of voting rights to the people of Kashmir.   

To resolve this issue of contention in our foreign policy, President Obama needs to improve his courage and determination to encourage both countries to stay the course of negotiating peace between them. The Solution of the Kashmiri issue and the withdrawal of the American forces from Afghanistan will bring security for the American interests in the region. The continuation of the war in Afghanistan until the middle of 2014 will only bring more bad news for the Americans.

Syed R. Mahmood, Founder and President of American Institute of International Studies. A Republican nominee for U.S. Congress district 13th 2002.