Prague, 4 August 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Western press today focuses on the escalating conflict between India and Pakistan in India's northern region of Kashmir. Some commentators say the decades-old dispute over the area could become a cause for atomic war between the two countries, both of which possess nuclear weapons. Other analysts assess the latest actions of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia's southern Kosovo province and the ongoing discussions over United Nations sanctions for Iraq.
Clashes on the border of India and Pakistan over Kashmir have cost more than 90 lives in the past five days. The international community is urging the prime ministers of both countries to resume peace talks, but so far intense firing across the disputed border has not subsided.
WASHINGTON POST: Indians, Pakistanis, Kashmiris must address common dilemma without propaganda, violence
In an editorial today, the Washington Post says leaders must work on reducing the violence by reducing the ranks of Indian para-militaries, withdrawing Pakistani infiltrators and checking Kashmiri terrorism. The paper writes in an editorial: "On the political side, the starting place is necessarily India's claim to consider Kashmir as its sovereign territory, beyond negotiation or mediation. The claim is deeply felt but politically flawed for not being based on a democratic expression of the Kashmiri people's will. Still --an often-overlooked factor-- the claim does have another, serious basis to it: that multi-ethnic India is a secular state." The editorial continues: "India, a powerful state, can stand off guerrilla, Pakistani and other foreign pressures indefinitely. It will relax its grip only if its democratic nature is properly appealed to and if its founding secular principle is acknowledged in a new political dispensation." The paper concludes: "We would not assume the Indians never will do the right thing. India can be narrowly nationalistic but it also is capable of rising above such feelings. But the context must be right. Propaganda thrusts and glib formulas are worth nothing. Indians, Pakistanis and Kashmiris must address their shared dilemma."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: India and Pakistan are paying high political, economic price for their conflict
A commentary by Peter Muench in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung says what he calls an "ice age" threatens to descend on the Asian sub-continent. But he writes: "This time, the world has paid attention. If the skirmishes (in Kashmir) are to usher in a war, as they have done twice before, it could be a nuclear war. The nuclear devices that India and Pakistan tested in May have added a new dimension to the old conflict. Muench goes on: "Both countries referred to Kashmir in justifying their nuclear ambitions. After attaining nuclear-power status, India provoked Pakistan by announcing that a qualitatively new era had also begun in the Kashmir conflict. There was so much saber-rattling that the latest clashes came as no surprise." He concludes: "Kashmir is the trap from which neither country seems able to escape. Yet there are sound reasons, both economic and political, for trying to find a solution. The arms race, now a nuclear-arms race, is costing a fortune that both countries urgently need for development. Even if no one is talking about a (full-scale) war yet...India and Pakistan are paying a high price for their long-term conflict. They are destroying their future, with or without a nuclear conflagration."
WALL STREET JOURNAL: India and Pakistan should open trade borders in order to solve conflict
An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal Europe says major policy changes could lessen the Kashmir conflict if India and Pakistan opened up their borders for trade (and) economic contacts...." The paper writes: "Right now, however, Pakistan is especially wary of opening up trade with India. But it is an area Washington and other would-be peacemakers ought to explore. Searching for signatures on nuclear treaties may seem like the worthiest and most noble cause. Laboring quietly away to make both sides see sense, and to sweeten incentives, on trade is far less glamorous. Yet it's a place to begin, and the brick wall is not so thick there. Once India and Pakistan have an economic stake in each other's well-being, the price of war might begin to look less affordable."
WASHINGTON POST: Not too late to convince Milosevic of an enhanced Kosovo autonomy
Other commentators assess Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's role in bringing about peace in embattled Kosovo. A Washington Post editorial, published today in the International Herald Tribune, calls Milosevic a "tough partner" who consistently crosses the line from fighting a war to obliterating civilians through ethnic genocide. The editorial says: "Ignoring counsels of restraint, last week Milosevic threw in major forces that went beyond the proportionate operations given to a sovereign state facing an armed secessionist movement, and crossed into harsh and plainly excessive measures of 'ethnic cleansing.' He remains a grave embarrassment to the United States and others who accept his refusal to see his country torn apart but who reject his tactics."
The paper continued: "But it is not too late for restraint, and it still makes sense for the international Contact Group to support a diplomatic reach for enhanced Kosovo autonomy. This means a status lying somewhere between the independence that Kosovo's ethnic Albanians demand and the subordination that Serbia now enforces. Kosovo's own small Serbian minority would of course expect fair treatment in a new dispensation." The editorial concludes: "Mr. Milosevic remains a tough case that must be cracked. He must be convinced that there can be no relief from international sanctions while he churns out new refugees in Kosovo. Nor can he be allowed to escape the possibility of NATO action against his forces to help bring about and to enforce a cease-fire."
DAILY TELEGRAPH: Western policy should not enter into dirty compromise with Milosevic
In an editorial entitled "Set Kosovo Free," today's Daily Telegraph of Britain says the recent fighting in Kosovo has exposed what it describes as a "sinister calculation" that Serbian pressure on the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) will force it to negotiate with Belgrade on restoring autonomy. The paper explains why the idea is what it considers "stupid and immoral," writing: "The immorality lies in using Serbian oppression as an instrument of policy. Mr. Milosevic is the architect of the hideous suffering visited on former Yugoslavia during this decade. He should be in the dock of the war-crimes tribunal in The Hague, rather than being allowed to pursue with impunity his vicious ends in Kosovo. Disaffection within Serbia and Montenegro, and the implacable hostility of the ethnic Albanians, suggest that his power is crumbling." The editorial goes on to say: "Western policy should be to weaken him wherever possible, not to enter into a dirty compromise over Kosovo. After much procrastination, NATO intervened to halt Serbian depredations in Bosnia. It is sickening to see the Alliance stand by while the pattern of oppression is repeated in Kosovo."
FINANCIAL TIMES: Nothing less than wide Kosovar autonomy will end the war
Britain's Financial Times carries an editorial analyzing Milosevic's battle tactics, urging him to honor his pledge to return refugees to their homes. The paper says: "Slobodan Milosevic...has cleverly gauged his counter-offensive to avoid any serious NATO reaction. He has used weekends to launch operations that just happen to wind down by the time Western diplomats get to their desks on Monday morning. He has generally restricted his Serb security forces to close-in attacks on UCK strong points, and told European and U.S. envoys last week that his counter-offensive was over. Yet Serb forces were back in action over the weekend." The editorial concludes by asking the West to continue pressuring Kosovar Albanians into going to the negotiating table: "The West needs to maintain that pressure on the Kosovar Albanians and to get them to drop their demand for outright independence. Equally, it must insist Mr. Milosevic help refugees return home as he has pledged to, and that he agree to wide autonomy for Kosovo. Nothing less will end the war."
TIMES: Butler encouraged to continue weapons inspections despite torrent of abuse from Iraqi leadership
Two commentaries today focus on sanctions against Iraq and UN Weapons Inspector Richard Butler's discussions with the Iraqi leadership earlier this week. An editorial today in The Times of Britain urges Butler to continue conscientiously with his work, despite pressure and what it calls a "torrent of abuse" from Iraqi leadership designed to get him to file a clean report on Iraq's weapons holdings. The paper says: "There is every reason to suspect that Iraq has not abandoned its biological, chemical and nuclear ambitions. Its past record of dishonesty and evasion demands that an exceptionally high hurdle of credibility has to be cleared before it can be awarded a clean bill of health. Saddam has, in the course of 1998, come dangerously close to imposing terms of reference and a tight timetable on those who are meant to be inspecting his activities." It concludes: "The removal of international sanctions without cast-iron restrictions on his military machine would be an enormous victory for his regime. Mr. Butler deserves to be supported in his endeavors and encouraged to leave no stone unturned in his search for evidence."
SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The fall of Saddam Hussein will not make Iraqs problems disappear
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung today addresses the overall situation in Iraq. Its editorial says Saddam Hussein should have been toppled in 1991, at the time of the Gulf War against his regime's occupation of neighboring Kuwait. Instead, it says, ongoing problems like the dispute over Iraqi weapons and international sanctions could now spark what it calls another "eruption." The editorial says: "Centrifugal forces (such as the Kurds in Northern Iraq and the Shiites in the South) have not gone away. Under the surface, which Saddam Hussein is flattening with his brutal methods, they remain as always waiting for a chance to erupt." That's why, the paper goes on, "the West has renounced total victory. If Saddam falls and Iraq is to be maintained as a national entity, another man will be needed who is as strong as he, but who doesn't have all his gruesome excesses. There is no such man in sight."