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Web Letter

One of the major factors in Pakistan has been left completely out of this article. The people of the mountains are Pashtun, and speak a quite different language, in a rather different culture from that of the Punjabis on the plains. The latter are viewed as a foreign occupier in their region, with the army being mostly Punjabi.

Since Pashtun are the dominant plurality in Afghanistan, a sparking of Pashtun nationalism would likely bring a return of the area into Afghanistan, and shatter Pakistan into several national ethnic states, which might also spread into destabilizing India. Meanwhile, half the Punjabis are in India, and the Baluchis spread into both Afghanistan and Iran.For comparison, look at the fifty-one-year bloody struggle in Sri Lanka, which is much smaller.

The current situation is left over from the expansion of the British Indian Empire into a set of boundaries with geographic stability and long-term ethnic instability.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

May 22 2009 - 8:41pm

Web Letter

The US gets mixed messages from Pakistan. On the one hand, there have been complaints about us leaving too early after the defeat of the Soviet Union, and on the other hand, they have a natural desire for self determination. I suspect they sometimes feel rather lonely in a hostile environment.

As we have seen with Mumbai, India faces a terrorist's threat from the same people that are attacking the Pakistan government. It would seem to me that it is in the interests of both governments to pause in their frozen conflict, so that Pakistan can deal with their mutual problem.

It is in the world's interest to mitigate, if not resolve, any dispute between two nuclear powers. It is not helpful that Secretary Clinton was co-chair of the India Caucus in the Senate. We need to act as an honest broker in this tricky situation. Congress is almost as clueless as the Bush Administration with regard to foreign policy. While we may not be able to resolve the Kashmir problem, there are baby steps we can take to reduce the tension between these two countries. A pullback from their mutual border would be helpful.

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

May 22 2009 - 12:34am