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Afpak: The India Factor

As I noted in my Friday reaction piece on Obama's AfPak plan, the role of India was an elephant in the room. Nearly everyone who studies the AfPak conundrum seems to agree that regional stability requires defused tension between Pakistan and its dreaded rival, India, particularly in Kashmir. (To put it simply, some Pakistani elements support the Afghan Taliban as a buffer against Indian encroachment in the country, and the Kashmir conflict is a magnet for jihadis who often wind up fighting in Afghanistan. And by the way this is also a source of potential nuclear war.) But Obama's speech made only a glancing referrence to this point.

Now comes word that Obama will meet with Indian Prime Minister Singh in London this week to discuss his new strategy. It should be an interesting conversation, as AFP notes that India's foreign secretary is

cool, however, about Obama's plans to "pursue constructive diplomacy" to improve relations between India and Pakistan, at loggerheads over possession of the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

"Our views are quite clear on how the India-Pakistan process has been most successful when it has been bilateral," without any external prodding, he said.

"It takes two hands to clap... Getting hands from elsewhere doesn't really help."

In fact, India is not interested in talking to Pakistan until the latter's investigation into the role of domestic radicals in the Mumbai terror attacks shows "visible results." This is not going to be easy.

--Michael Crowley