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"Slow but Steady on Kashmir"

Traders from Pakistani Kashmir wave after crossing onto the Indian side of Kashmir's de facto border, the Line of Control (LoC), Oct. 9, 2008. A delegation of traders from Pakistani Kashmir arrived in Indian Kashmir to hold talks on cross-LoC trade.
AP Photo

"Slow but Steady on Kashmir"

Advice to President Obama

Policy Memo, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

January 2009

Author: Paul Staniland, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program/Intrastate Conflict Program, 2008–2009

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Intrastate Conflict Program



From Advice to President Obama—A quick guide to pressing policy issues, published by MIT's Center for International Studies:

"Barack Obama will be flooded with advice on the many crucial matters that he must face as 44th President of the United States, as will the new Congress. Here we offer a few fresh ideas, succinctly stated, on issues ranging from security strategy to the financial crisis to human rights. The advice is offered by scholars affiliated with the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS), and draws on their deep knowledge and experience."

Research Fellow Paul Staniland offers his policy recommendations on U.S. policy toward the disputed region of Kashmir.


The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is profoundly destabilizing. The U.S. has a strong interest in bolstering a stable Pakistan and encouraging India's rise, and thus it should care about Kashmir. India, however, is vehemently opposed to internationalization of the issue, while Pakistani leaders are too weak and internally divided to make major concessions.

Instead of special envoys and summits, the U.S. should adopt a "quiet diplomacy" approach that offers incentives to India and Pakistan for making tangible, if small, progress on the ground in Kashmir. The U.S. should offer to help fund sustained local policy initiatives in both Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir aimed at improving governance and encouraging economic exchange and the movement of people across the Line of Control. An initiative focused on local government and civil society lacks the drama of shuttle diplomacy and grand bargains, but can actually improve the daily lives of Kashmiris while giving them more say over their own governance. This slow, incremental strategy falls far short of the ambitions of many Kashmiris, Indians, and Pakistanis, but it can provide a base of trust and confidence to eventually move toward a more encompassing settlement.

Paul Staniland is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at MIT, and a research fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School.

Download all the Advice to President Obama policy memos here.


For more information about this publication please contact the ISP Program Coordinator at 617-496-1981.

Full text of this publication is available at:

For Academic Citation:

Staniland, Paul. "Slow but Steady on Kashmir." Policy Memo, Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, January 2009.

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