India and Pakistan nuclear flashpoint
By Frank Schier
Editor & Publisher
Prakash Singh, an expert on international terrorism, told the meeting of the Rotary Club of Rockford last Thursday that Kashmir is Southern Asias hot spot and nuclear flashpoint.
Singh won Indias highest award for national security for service as the director general for Indias border with Burma, Bangladesh, China, Nepal and Pakistan. With a masters degree in history, he has also served as a consultant for the governments of Italy and Australia.
Giving a detailed presentation of the history of the conflict between mostly Muslim Pakistan and mostly Hindu India, he stressed that any consideration of the conflict in the disputed Kashmir region, in northwestern India with a large Muslim population, must focus on nuclear capability. He pointed out that Pakistans nuclear weapons are in military hands, whereas Indias nuclear weapons are in civilian hands.
In his estimation, the only chance Pakistan would have in a nuclear confrontation would be to strike first. He also said, nuclear weapons are weapons of last resort for India, and weapons of first resort for Pakistan.
He asserted that nationals and arms from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Pakistan have been utilized in the Kashmir conflict, making the conflict one of state-sponsored
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terrorism. Singh cited recent hijackings and attacks on Indias State Assembly and Parliament as having the direct support of Pakistans government, fitting the U.S. State Departments pattern of global terrorism criteria.
As to solutions to the conflict, he discounted a plebiscite in the region because part of the population extends into China. He felt an independent Kashmir was impractical because neither side would withdraw. He favored a L.O.C. (Lines of Control) solution, suggesting acceptance of existing borders that each nation effectively controls. He also recommended the demilitarization of the glacier area or no mans land between the opposing sides.
Responding to a question by a Rotary member, Singh said force might be the short-term solution to responding to militant Islam by the West but not the long-term solution. In the long term, both civilizations will have to do a lot of exploration of the roots of rage. Why do they [militant Islam] feel suppressed, exploited and alienated by the West? he asked.
Singh acknowledged that Indias relationship with the U.S. was much stronger with the Clinton administration than with the current Bush administration. He said that the current administration was trapped by circumstance, and that the U.S. military had a compulsion for bases and alliances to launch the Afghanistan war.
We understand it, and appreciate it, he said. However, he said, in the long term for the U.S., the Pakistani point of view is a tricky question. In the long term, their hearts are with the Taliban. Their government is only doing this [cooperating with the U.S.] under duress, only with a pistol to their head.
Singh asserted if Pakistans current military leaders suffered a coup by fundamentalist Islamic forces, the U.S. will destroy Pakistans nuclear weapons.
Singh stressed, India has common values shared with the U.S.
Singh also said he was not an official representative of his government, and that his visit to the U.S. was an independent tour on the basis of his contacts in academia.
U.S. envoy in India
On Tuesday, The New York Times News Service reported that a U.S. envoy arrived in New Delhi to defuse the tensions that have lingered between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan, Indian officials were sending conflicting signals Monday night about whether they intend to take military action against Pakistan, which India accuses of harboring terrorists.
The report went on to say that public and private statements by the Indian government may be two different things. One official offered assurances that India planned no action, and a senior Western diplomat said, crunch time was approaching in testing Pakistani intentions.
The envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca, will also visit Pakistan, according to the report.
Pakistani regime unstable?
In the meantime, the Associated Press reported that death squads of the Sunni Muslin majority were attacking the Shiite Muslim minority in Pakistan.
The report says the attacks are being made by Al Qaeda fugitives from Afghanistan and radical Pakistani allies.
The radical or fundamentalist Sunni oppose Pakistani ruler General Pervez Musharraf for supporting the U.S.-led war on terror.
Attacks on a bus, a mosque, a Christian church and the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl are seen as efforts to destabilize the Pakistani government.