Secretary of State John Kerry is headed for the subcontinent, where
his most important messages will be delivered in private and his public
remarks will be as bland as possible. That’s how the game is played.
Don’t expect U.S. officials to say much in public about nuclear issues
or the pathways to confrontation and conflict between India and
Pakistan. Press releases and public statements are designed to avoid
unnecessary controversies. Since even minor instances of public candor
raise hackles, U.S. public diplomacy consists of whispers and indirect
Among the issues deemed too neuralgic and counterproductive to talk
about publicly are most things related to Kashmir. During the 1990s when
Indian human rights abuses and Pakistani support for jihadi groups
crossing the Line of Control were painfully evident, Washington was
mostly quiet. Early in the Clinton administration, Assistant Secretary
of State Robin Raphel declared that the status of Kashmir wasn’t a
settled issue – a true enough statement, since neither India nor
Pakistan recognizes each other’s holdings – and New Delhi went
ballistic. Ever since, Kashmir has been almost a non-issue.
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