Media focus on Kashmir
It is too early to predict the outcome of President Clinton’s visit to India and Pakistan. However, one thing is clear: the Americanization of the Kashmir dispute has taken place as a consequence of media focus and detailed documentaries on the issue. Never before has the Kashmir dispute been given so much media spotlight be it either the print media or the electronic media or the Internet.
Focus on the Kashmir issue has been so intense that the Americans who previously dismissed reports from the subcontinent as being inconsequential have begun to talk about it. They wonder what would happen if a nuclear war between India and Pakistan broke out.
One can overhear comments like “I didn’t know that Kashmir is like the Palestinian issue in the Middle East,” or “both countries have bombs, we hope they don’t use them.”
A leading American television network, ABC News, broadcast a 1-hour documentary in what is called the Prime Time. The documentary hosted by its anchor Peter Jennings asserted that without international intervention the dispute could possibly spark off a nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan which would have worldwide implications.
Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes conceded in an interview with ABC News that if a nuclear war breaks out it will be the “end of subcontinent as we know it.”
The ABC News described it as “one of the most unstable regions on the planet where violence and threats of violence intensify nearly every day.”
President Clinton, the report said, “will face one of the greatest challenges of his presidency: trying to convince two countries that do not fully trust the United States, to embrace peace after generations of war.”
Similarly CBS TV network noted that President Clinton has called Kashmir border “the most dangerous place on earth.” Pakistan and India have already gone to war twice over Kashmir, and many believe that a third conflict is inevitable. If the two sides do battle again, the shockwaves will be felt well beyond the Indian subcontinent, because the next war will be between the world’s newest nuclear powers.
“Signs that a fourth conflict my be imminent seem far more ominous today because both countries have recently acquired and tested their own nuclear weapons. Not only is nuclear war suddenly a real possibility, but the sense of security ensured by the mere possession of such weapons may make renewed outbreak of conventional war all the more likely,” said NBC News Network.
Indian and Pakistan politicians have used Kashmir as a rallying point for so long that compromise would be a political suicide. India’s ruling BJP government used a hardline against Pakistan to enhance its nationalist image during recent elections.”
Other reports suggested that as a consequence of the Kargil conflict Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s Hindu nationalist party BJP won the elections and since then has launched an aggressive campaign to prod the United States to declare Pakistan a “terrorist state.”
However, ABC News noted in its report that “totally lost in the midst of all this are the Kashmiris themselves. Even conservative estimates say that tens of thousands have died over the last decade of violence. The constant arguments between India and Pakistan about who is responsible for violence have little appeal to the Kashmiris. They beg for international intervention. They ask why they don’t deserve the global attention received by the East Timorese or the Kosovars.” The ABC documentary exhorted that “President Clinton will be helped tremendously if the American public starts to pay attention. Public attention to South Asia will mean political attention. Only constant pressure from the international community will compel the two sides to make the hard choices.
As we look at India and Pakistan we ought to remember that the problems of South Asia are precisely the problems we will be forced to face in the coming century terrorism, religious militancy, movements for local independence, and the spread of nuclear weapons.” Experts here said: “Although it is unlikely that the president will find the answer to ending the cycle of violence that has plagued these two nations, if he achieves nothing more than focusing the world attention on the growing danger, it will be a service. The only thing that seems likely to help avert another war is the sustained interest of the global community, and most importantly the United States.”