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Why Obama is focusing on Kashmir

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
March 18, 2009 09:29 IST
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Observing that the Barack Obama administration is looking at Pakistan through a different lens than its predecessors, a former American diplomat on Wednesday said that the new United States government would quietly focus itself on Kashmir, away from the public gaze.

William Milam, the former US Ambassador to Pakistan, identified Kashmir as one of the issues on which the Obama administration would focus on while trying to find a solution to Pakistan.

"There's one more thing and it's a very delicate thing that I think this administration will focus on. But it will be hard to determine this focus because it will be quite closely held and under wraps. And that is the India-centricity of Pakistan," said Milam, who was in Islamabad from 1998 to 2001.

"Everything that Pakistan does, at least in foreign affairs and security issues, is viewed through the lens of India, which it views as its eternally hostile neighbour," Milam said, adding that the US can't do much at least on the issue of Kashmir due to India's position on it.

"There's no good way we can do this. We certainly cannot be seen to meddle or to even mediate on the issues, particularly the Kashmir issue. But we really have to work on putting this back together," Milam said while testifying before the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Giving his observations on the new administration's Pakistan policy, Milam said it is clear to him that the Obama administration is sees Pakistan through a slightly different lens than the previous administrations.

"Pakistan remains an ally and a very important ally of the United States. But I think our focus is changing from an open kind of relationship to a relation which is much more focused on changing the Pakistani mindset in terms of resisting the threat that really threatens their state and being able to meet that threat," he said.

"The military side, I think, is going to be much more focused on counter-insurgency operations and the equipment, as well as the training, which the Pakistan army needs to do that," he said.

The US assistance now would be much more economic in nature, he said. "I believe that the administration is going to triple economic assistance. That would go both to shoring up the economy, which is in terrible shape, as well as providing some aid for social development and education."

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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