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Interview with Stephen P. Cohen - 2002-05-22


MR. BORGIDA:
Joining us now to talk about the India-Pakistan tension, from the Brookings Institution here in Washington, Stephen Cohen. Stephen, thank you so much for joining us.

MR. COHEN:
Good to be with you.

MR. BORGIDA:
How bad is it? I'm just going to get right to the heart of it.

MR. COHEN:
Well, it has been bad for about five months. And the question is whether it can get much worse. I think it can. I think that there is still plenty of room for India to ratchet up the pressure on both Pakistan and the United States by escalating its threats. There are a number of things the Indians can do which would make things look worse without actually going to war. So I expect some period of increased Indian pressure.

But the question is, how can India back down from its position and whether the Pakistanis can accommodate the Indians and whether the United States can play a role other than simply as an umpire between two friends. I think this is a very difficult crisis, and I think we are going to hear a lot more of it for the rest of the summer.

MR. BORGIDA:
British Prime Minister Blair is already talking to both sides and pleading for them to reflect and pause before this gets out of control. Obviously there is more and more international concern about this.

MR. COHEN:
Well, hope and concern are good, but they are not a policy. And I don't think that the British or the American Government has a policy, actually some new ideas that they can throw into the pot that India and Pakistan can respond to. And so far they have been distracted primarily by the war in Afghanistan and now the situation in the Middle East. I don't think they have turned their full attention to this. And my fear is that it could get out of hand before the rest of the world wakes up to find out that they have a potential nuclear war on their hands or they have a real nuclear war on their hands.

MR. BORGIDA:
Mr. Cohen, you're saying there is no policy; if you had the ears of both governments, what would you recommend?

MR. COHEN:
I would say, first of all, that the Clinton administration statement that the Line of Control was inviolable should be reiterated. And the Indians agreed with that. The Indians liked it when we said that. Now, this would, in a sense, constrain the Indians from moving across.

On the other hand, I would tell the Pakistanis that they have to do more to stop cross-border movement, including terrorists. Some of these groups may not be under Pakistani control. For example, Mr. Lone may have been killed by somebody who is under neither Indian nor Pakistani control. They simply wanted to disrupt the regional peace process. So I think the Pakistanis have to do more. They have to be seen to be doing more. And the Indians, in a sense, on their side have to allow perhaps international inspectors or some kind of third party to verify who is coming across and who is not.

Some of these terrorists may be homegrown in India. Some of them may be residents of India. We are not quite sure who they are, but they are certainly causing havoc in India. And I think that, because it has a nuclear implication and also political implications, this is a concern for the international community. The Indians and the Pakistanis have to do more than simply accuse each other, to put the blame on each other.

MR. BORGIDA:
Thank you so much for your views. That's Stephen Cohen, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution here in Washington. Thanks so much, Mr. Cohen, for joining.

MR. COHEN:
Good to be here.

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