The Limits of Influence: America's Role in Kashmir

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The Limits of Influence: America's Role in Kashmir
By Howard B. Schaffer
Brookings Institution Press, 2009
260 pp. $34.95
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In lives lost, wars spawned, and reputations ruined, the territorial dispute over Kashmir surely ranks near the top of all the world's intractable conflicts. Schaffer, a retired U.S. ambassador with decades of experience in South Asia, has written an exemplary account of the United States' efforts over 60 years to settle, or at least manage, this problem. From 1948 to 1989, U.S. diplomacy fluctuated between engagement and quiescence. But in 1989, the outbreak of a serious insurgency in the Kashmir Valley-which has drawn or nearly drawn the nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan into open conflict on several occasions-made further U.S. disengagement untenable. Beginning with the presidency of George H. W. Bush, crisis management, rather than conflict resolution, became the chief challenge for U.S. diplomacy. As the title of this book suggests, however, even high-level U.S. engagement has brought only modest results. Nonetheless, Schaffer argues that the time is right for a fresh U.S. initiative to help resolve the Kashmir dispute, especially since the views of India and Pakistan on the terms of a potential settlement have grown closer. U.S. President Barack Obama probably believes he already has a full plate of foreign policy problems. But were he to succeed where 11 predecessors have failed, his Nobel Peace Prize would surely take on added luster.