Obama’s pitch: Fix Kashmir for UN Security Council seat

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Washington, DC: Go for a Kashmir solution and help bring stability to the region for a ticket to UN Security Council membership and fulfilling your big power aspirations. That’s the broad message President Barack Obama will be bringing to New Delhi during his upcoming November visit to India, preparation for which are in full swing in Washington DC.

The Kashmir settlement-for-seat at high table idea (euphemism for UNSC membership) is being discussed animatedly in the highest levels of the US administration, according to a various sources. President Obama himself has decided to revive the process of a US push in this direction, albeit discreetly, because of New Delhi’s sensitivities.

Key administration officials are confirming that the UNSC issue will be on Obama’s agenda when he visits New Delhi. The US President is expected to announce an incremental American support to India’s candidature during his address to the joint session of India’s Parliament, depending on New Delhi’s receptiveness to resolving the Kashmir tangle.

The clearest insight into Obama’s thinking on the matter comes from Bob Wood-ward’s latest book Obama’s War in which top US policy-makers are shown mulling on defusing the Kashmir situation as part of an exit strategy for US from the AfPak theater.

“India cannot become a global power with a prosperous economy if its neighbor is a constant source of terror armed with the bomb. A sick Pakistan is not a good neighbor,” he added, echoing Obama’s words (Woodward’s book also suggests he influenced Obama’s thinking).

Virtually setting the agenda for Obama’s India visit, Riedel says Obama’s challenge is to quietly help Islamabad and New Delhi work behind the scenes to get back to the deal Musharraf and Singh negotiated. “He will have a chance to work this subtly when he visits India in November,” he writes.

But Riedel and other US policy-makers portrayed in Woodward’s book also recognize that the biggest hurdle to a settlement is a hard-line Pakistani military. While the civilian leadership in Pakistan would like to embrace the deal “it is unclear if the Army Chief, General Kayani, is on board.”

Woodward’s book shows that most top US officials, save Admiral Mike Mullen, believe Kayani to be a closet jihadi and a two-faced “liar” intent on perpetuating war with India. “I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m India-centric,” Kayani is quoted as telling US officials in one exchange.

Although three top Cabinet principals from India — S.M. Krishna, A.K. Antony, and Pranab Mukherjee — are in the US and next, exchanges on the UNSC and Kashmir are said to be taking place directly between President Obama and Prime Minister Singh through trusted interlocutors such as National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, who is also in Washington DC recently.

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