Hours before the American people decide on their next President, Democrat presidential candidate (and front-runner) Barack Obama hit a raw nerve in India with his comments on Kashmir. “We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants,” Obama told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in response to a question on why he believed more American troops were needed in Afghanistan.
India, always prickly about third party intervention (its stand is that Kashmir is an ‘internal problem’ that is nobody’s business but its own) was quick to respond. Defence and security analyst C Raja Mohan warned in The Indian Express: “If Obama’s Kashmir thesis becomes the policy, many negative consequences might ensue.”
Officially, India has downplayed Obama’s Kashmir comments. But BJP party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said they were “an unwarranted interference in India’s internal affairs”.
Obama’s statement has been welcomed by Kashmiri separatists, including the Kashmiri American Council
Obama’s stand on Kashmir — and his view that the solution to Afghanistan lies in Pakistan both because al Qaeda and the Taliban are based there and also because it suits Pakistan to back Islamic militants against India — are not particularly new. Obama visited Afghanistan in July and had at the time also voiced his opinion on the need for the US to work towards improving relationships between India and Pakistan.
Read the transcript of Barack Obama’s interview here.