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September 26, 2014


Arshad M Khan

Source:  Asia Times Online

Drawn into Iraq again after leaving as he promised during his campaign, President
Barack Obama is fighting another war. Within a few short months, he will be into his
two last years as president - a lame duck. As the Middle East refuses to stabilize, the
war against Islamic State heats up, and the wily Russian President Vladimir Putin
keeps chipping away at Ukraine without falling into the invasion trap set for him, the
question of legacy is beginning to form on the lips of commentators - and it does not
look like one of peace.

Peace also has a measure of urgency now in South Asia - a region of the world where
simmering animosities fanned by religious intolerance have resulted in two
nuclear-armed powers being locked in a perpetual face-off.

It is a tinder box, set alight frequently by proxies and extinguished temporarily, only to
be lit again. Suspicion, mistrust, proxy wars, cross-border incursions, carry their own
risk. Thus a dangerous miscalculation or misinterpretation of intent, even an
over-zealous lower level commander, or an accident could very easily lead to a
nuclear exchange.

In peace lies safety - and not just for the Indian subcontinent because with each side
possessing over a hundred weapons, the climate effects could spread across the

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda leader, in his latest announcement issued a call to
start recruitment in India. Fanning the flames could be easy given the Kashmir
problem, and India could soon have a situation worse than being suffered in Pakistan.
Fighting the menace together rather than with the Pakistani ambivalence caused by
Kashmir could help rid the subcontinent of this threat forever.

Recent attempts to restart peace talks were suspended by India. Reasons speculated
upon vary: from a tougher Indian stance to pure local politics - elections are due to
take place in the disputed Kashmir region. Whatever the reason, the two sides clearly
need an honest broker, perhaps a catalyst. Even a limited agreement, any agreement
bringing peace to over a billion people would be no small legacy.

It is an opportune moment: the two leaders will be in New York with an overlap,
September 26-27, for the latest session of the UN General Assembly. A meeting on
the sidelines to set forth a basic skeletal agenda and a timeline would be significant,
and realizable since both countries want to maintain close relations with the US - India
because of its rivalry and cross-border disputes with China, and Pakistan to bolster its
military and economy. The only question remaining is whether this US President can
seize the moment.