There are lots of dangerous places in this world: Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Bolivia, Iran, Palestine, Yemen, and Somalia to name a few. But there is only one that could destabilize a large part of the globe and end up killing tens of millions of people. And yet for reasons of state that is the one place the Obama administration will not talk about: Kashmir.
And yet this region has sparked three wars between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. It is currently in the midst of serious political upheaval. And it is central to reducing tensions in Central and South Asia.
None of these facts should surprise Obama. While running for office in 2008 he explicitly called for a solution to Kashmir. “It won’t be easy, but it is important,” he told Joe Klein of Time magazine.
Kashmir’s ImportanceGiven that India and Pakistan came within a hair’s breath of a full-scale nuclear confrontation during the 1999 Kargil incident, the importance seems obvious. According to a recent study in Scientific American, such an exchange would kill and maim untold millions, flood the surrounding region with nuclear fallout, and create a “nuclear winter” for part of the globe.
Kashmir also fuels extremists in the region—both Hindu and Islamic—which in turn destabilizes Pakistan and Afghanistan. The conflict has already killed between 50,000 and 80,000 people, “disappeared” several thousand others, seen thousands imprisoned and tortured, and subjected millions of Kashmiris to an onerous regime of occupation, with laws drawn straight from Britain’s colonial past.
Why then would President Obama remain silent on the subject, particularly since the outlines of a solution have been in place since 2007?