Give up ‘P’ and ‘K’ fixation, Stephen Cohen tells India


New Delhi: Neither ‘hot pursuit’ of terrorists nor bombing of the terrorist camps in POK is a solution to the problem India is facing from its western border, Stephen Cohen, an old South Asia hand, opines. His advice to India: ‘Give up Pakistan fixation’, a view some Indian commentators have been voicing for a while.

Cohen a regular to the sub-continent, made two observations while speaking at Pan IIT 2008 in Chennai on Saturday.

First, the world has recognised India’s long-standing concern that Pakistan is a hotbed of terrorism is. Full credit for this to ‘brilliant stupidity’ of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. The Pakistan based terrorist group internationalised the issue in the Mumbai attacks in which people of 22 nations became victims.

Second there is also understanding of the public anger in India after the Mumbai attacks.

But the Brookings Institute expert argued that ideas of ‘hot pursuit’ or any attempt to bomb terror camps in PoK would not solve the basic problem. There is no question; he went on to say that the U.S. would support India in the matter.

Saying that the entire political spectrum views India as strategically important, Stephen Cohen, a former adviser to the State Department on South Asia, said while the outgoing Bush administration looked at India as a ‘balancer’ in the region to China, the incoming Obama administration is keen on India’s role in Afghanistan.

So, it is ‘unwise’ for India to escalate tensions in the region through military action aimed at destroying terror camps ‘unilaterally’, according to him, who wants to India not to emulate the American unilateralism and instead be ‘conscious’ of the threat the nuclear neighbour posed if pushed into a desperate situation.

Elaborating further, Cohen argued India needed to ‘liberate itself’ from Pakistan and Kashmir to take its rightful place in the global order. Because, in his assessment, the Kashmir issue would also involve dialogue with the Chinese and the Kashmiris themselves and the only way out of this deadlock would be to mediate with the moderates in Pakistan through social, cultural exchanges, cricket and other means.

Cohen held the view that current atmosphere augured well for India-U.S. relations saying that the Obama administration would involve experts who understand the complexities of dealing with Pakistan and a need for closer cooperation with India.