February 25, 2004

February 25, 2004 | Lecture on Asia

India & Pakistan: Vision of the Future: Peace on the Horizon

WRAPP

Asia clearly presents America with unique challenges like no other region in the world. One-half of all the world's population can be found in Asia, and India and China alone make up one-third of the world's population. Asia has some of the world's most powerful economies. At the same time, the most serious direct threats to America's national security from terrorism and weapons proliferation emanate from Asia. The nexus between terrorism in the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia along with weapons proliferation between Iran, Libya, North Korea and Pakistan present serious challenges to our national security and that of our allies.

U.S. officials remain concerned about active missile proliferation efforts involving China and North Korea as well as Pakistan, leading India to declare itself a nuclear power. Thus, America is faced with a possible scenario of North Korea, Pakistan, India, continuing to expand their respective nuclear arsenals in the upcoming years.

However, encouraging signs are on the horizon. Thanks to the strong leadership and decisive action of President George W. Bush, savage regimes of Iraq and Afghanistan that harbored and supported terrorist groups are no more. These victories in the War on Terror are having huge ripple effects throughout the world, and most notably in Asia. Just last year I traveled to North Korea with a congressional delegation that preceded the resumption of disarmament talks. At the time, my Democratic colleague Congressman Solomon Ortiz noted that the communist state's sudden willingness to talk meant they had either "seen the light or felt the heat." Additionally, Iran and Libya have opened their countries to international nuclear weapons inspectors. The Bush Administration is actively working on building a coalition with China, Korea, and Japan to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons program. And now India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed countries sharing a common border, have begun serious talks to establish permanent peace. While threats to our national security abound, signs of hope are on the horizon, with peace between India and Pakistan the most encouraging recent development.

Introduction to India

 India is not only the largest democracy in Asia, it is the largest democracy in the world. This is a fact that Indians take great pride in because they are well aware of the lack of democracies throughout the world, especially throughout Asia and the Muslim world. India is multi-religious and multi-cultural, with many different languages spoken throughout the country. In April, during India's upcoming national elections, more than 600 million people are expected to vote, a continuing symbol of India's democracy.

India has made great strides since independence in virtually every area of economic and social development. The national literacy rate in India at the time of independence in 1947 was only 14%; today it is 65%. Approximately 55% of the Indian population lived below the poverty line at the time of independence; today that number is less than 33%. India provides refuge for more than 100,000 Tibetans, 66,000 Sri Lankans, 15,000 Bhutanese, 100,000 Afghans, and tens of thousands of Bangladeshis, who have suffered from political and religious persecution.

America's diversity, secularism, and democracy, have been admired by the people of India, and have served as guideposts for India since India's independence. For example, India followed America's lead when it opened up its Air Force to women in 1991, and more women are now entering the Indian Armed Forces. In America, two women sit on the United States Supreme Court, and in India, one of the justices on India's Supreme Court is a Muslim woman. The judiciary in India has also set aside reservations for judges from minority communities. In America, National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell are African-Americans. In India, India's Minister of Defense, George Fernandes, is Christian, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the equivalent of the American Vice-President, is Muslim, and a number of Muslims, Sikhs, and women make up Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Cabinet.

According to the National Intelligence Agency, by 2015:

India will be the unrivaled regional power with a large military - including naval and nuclear capabilities - and a dynamic and growing economy. Numerous factors provide India a competitive advantage in the global economy. It has the largest English-speaking population in the developing world; its education system produces millions of scientific and technical personnel. India has a growing business-minded middle class eager to strengthen ties to the outside world, and the large Indian expatriate population provides strong links to key markets around the world. . . .

Currently, bilateral trade between the U.S. and India stands at $24 billion a year, and the Indian economy is estimated to attain 8.1% growth for the past fiscal year. President Bush and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee have established a close, working relationship. Both leaders have signed an agreement to establish a strategic partnership, both nations have regularly participated in joint military exercises, and President Bush removed sanctions on India.

President Bush himself noted about this new strategic partnership:

In November 2001, Prime Minister Vajpayee and I committed our countries to a strategic partnership. Since then, our two countries have strengthened bilateral cooperation significantly in several areas. Today we announce the next steps in implementing our shared vision. . . . The expanded cooperation launched today is an important milestone in transforming the relationship between the United States and India. That relationship is based increasingly on common values and common interests. We are working together to promote global peace and prosperity. We are partners in the war on terrorism and we are partners in controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. The vision of U.S.-India strategic partnership that Prime Minister Vajpayee and I share is now becoming a reality.

India & the Fight Against Terrorism

India has long suffered from terrorism sponsored by Pakistan-backed terrorist organizations. For example, in December 1999, Indian Airlines Flight 814 was hijacked from Nepal and taken to Afghanistan. There, terrorists demanded $200 million in cash and the release of 36 terrorists from Indian prisons. During the hijacking, one Indian passenger returning home from his honeymoon was stabbed to death, and U.S. officials monitored the situation closely because a U.S. citizen was on board the plane. Ultimately, after eight days of negotiations, three terrorists in Indian prisons were released in exchange for the safe release of the remaining 155 passengers. None of the hijackers were caught, and all escaped through Afghanistan and into Pakistan. It was this terrorist attack that brought India and America closer together on the need for coordinating counterterrorism efforts. In January 2000, shortly after the hijacking ended, the Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism was formed, and the F.B.I. opened its first field office in New Delhi.

The hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight 814 had a connection to the September 11, 2001 attacks in America. One of the freed terrorists that was released from prison by Indian authorities, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, was allegedly in Pakistan a few weeks before the September 11 attacks, and had earlier transferred $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of the hijackers in America. This same terrorist was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. This is an example of how terrorism has affected India and America simultaneously.

October 1, 2001, the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on the Kashmir State Legislature, which killed 38 people and critically injured dozens more. On December 13, 2001, 5 Pakistani nationals committed a suicide attack on India's Parliament, resulting in a 90-minute gun battle between the militants and New Delhi police, which ended in 14 deaths. Many Indians and officials in the Indian government viewed these suicide attacks on the Indian Parliament as an attack on India's democracy.

Kashmir

A recent census in the state showed that of Kashmir's 10 million people, approximately 60% were Sunni Muslims, 35% were Hindu, and the rest were Sikhs, Buddhists, Shia Muslims, and Christians. Jammu is predominately Hindu, Ladakh mostly Buddhist and Shia Muslim, and the Kashmir Valley mainly Sunni Muslim.

In 1989, after the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan, Islamist militants sought a new area to wage their jihad, and thus the Kashmir conflict came into full force. Thousands of civilians and Indian security officials have died during this insurgency. However, recently, the number of casualties among Indian security forces and civilians in Kashmir has declined, according to government statistics compiled by The Associated Press. In 2002 there were 967 civilian casualties compared with 808 in 2003 and 521 casualties among security forces in 2002 compared with 381 in 2003.

Although Pakistan denies any involvement and claims the uprising is solely indigenous, many Indian government officials point to training camps in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, indoctrination in religious schools known as madrasses, and continued fundraising by extremist groups in Pakistan as obstacles to peace in Kashmir.

Terrorists in Kashmir target Hindus, pro-India politicians, and Kashmiri Muslims who do not support their separatist cause. Militants also target local elections to disrupt the renewed democratic process in Kashmir. The umbrella organization in Kashmir known as the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is an alliance of 23 separatist groups that claims to represent the wishes of the Kashmiri people. The first meeting between an Indian Premier and Kashmiri separatists took place when five members of the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference met with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in late January 2004. The separatists also met with Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, and both sides agreed to meet again in March.

It is important to recognize the financial aspect of the jihad in Kashmir, which is essentially run like a business organization, similar to al Qaeda's operations, at least in terms of the financing of terrorist activities and the recruitment of young men to join the jihad.

First, South Asian Islamists are copying Middle Eastern terror tactics by raising money for the families of suicide bombers. This explains the increase of suicide attacks in Israel and Kashmir beginning in the summer of 2001. This fundraising is particularly attractive for young men who generally come from large families, who are typically unemployed, and are attracted to the Islamist ideology of becoming a "shahid" or martyr.

Ensuring their families are taken care of provides part of the motivation for suicide bombers to carry out spectacular suicide missions.

Second, large financial incentives are offered to foreign fighters, which plays a crucial role in providing a continual flow of militants into Kashmir and other parts of the world where there are conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Third, higher-ranking officers get handsome salaries and bonuses as part of the financial incentives offered to officers and fighters. These changes in the Kashmir insurgency parallel separatist movements in other parts of the world, and must be taken into account to accurately portray the human rights situation in Kashmir. Recently, some extremist organizations in Pakistan accused of terrorist activity in Kashmir and designated by the U.S. as foreign terrorist organizations, have changed names and lowered their profile, but have continued operating. Of recent concern, is the Washington Times article reporting that Islamist radicals may be training at camps inside Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir as part of an al Qaeda conspiracy to send terrorists to America to form sleeper cells.

Pakistan

Pakistan is at a crucial point in its history. Pakistan is one of the largest countries in the world, and the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. Pakistan has the opportunity to serve as a role model for other Muslim countries. Thus, Pakistan is at a crossroads. Down one path, are madrassas teaching the Wahabbi faith, extremists and terrorist organizations fighting police forces, the army, and the government, and a declining economy. Down the other path, is a return to democracy, a vibrant economy, a rejection of religious fundamentalism, new schools, and secure control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Recently, the very same extremists that were encouraged in Kashmir have been blamed behind the two assassination attempts against Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. Recently, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic weapons program, was pardoned by President Musharraf, for illicit sales of nuclear technology to North Korea, Libya, and Iran. Dr. Khan also made unsuccessful attempts to sell nuclear secrets to Saddam Hussein in 1992. On a positive note, the U.S. and Pakistan continue mutual cooperation to capture al Qaeda fugitives along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

Resolving the Kashmir Conflict

The U.S. should not get drawn into the historical arguments over whether Kashmir should have been part of India or Pakistan at the time of partition. Instead, U.S. officials must work at promoting a bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan, which takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people, as well as the desires of both countries. Neither country wants to appear as if it ceded ground to the other. Thus, both nations need a face-saving peace plan where the governments of each country can equally take credit for resolving the Kashmir dispute. Without such a plan, both countries will continue with the ongoing stalemate indefinitely. The U.S. has encouraged India and Pakistan to maintain the momentum of the first round of talks and continue their dialogue. I believe the reasonable solution to the Kashmir dispute is to make the line of control separating the two Kashmir sections the border between India and Pakistan. Muslims from both portions of Kashmir should have the freedom to choose on which side of the Kashmir border they want to settle.

There should be an open border policy to reunite families and to increase trade in the region. Many of the hostilities that exist in Kashmir will cease to exist once people-to-people ties are established. This has already happened because just recently, a new road link between the capital cities of Indian-controlled Kashmir (Srinigar) and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir (Muzaffarabad) was reopened. India and Pakistan have resumed air, bus and rail links. India is now sending its Cricket team to Pakistan for the first time in 14 years. The people in both countries feel optimistic about peace. This is so mutually beneficial for both countries.

Conclusion

I am very optimistic about the potential for peace between India and Pakistan. Both governments have displayed maturity in approaching the peace process. Both countries are nuclear powers and share a common border, a unique situation in the world today.

The Composite Dialogue seeks to resolve numerous bilateral issues between the countries, including Kashmir. People to people ties have increased, which will undo years of hostility, although this will take time. Perhaps there is no other place in the world where people share common cultural bonds, than between Pakistan and India. I am looking forward to my visit to India, and in my capacity as Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, I will do what I can to help facilitate peace and mutually beneficial cooperation between the people of India and Pakistan.