links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter


Posted on on January 24th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Signaling his determination to use diplomacy to address the world’s toughest conflicts, President Obama went to the State Department on Thursday to install high-level emissaries to handle the Arab-Israeli issue and the Pakistan and Afghanistan region.
Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, will hold the title of Special Representative and will be responsible for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr. Holbrooke, a longtime diplomat was the American ambassador to the United Nations, played a central role in drafting the 1995 Dayton peace accords, which ended the war in Bosnia. He was once viewed as a potential secretary of state.

According to Helene Cooper of The New York Times’ Coverage of the event – “Underscoring the potentially tangled lines of authority, Mrs. Clinton said that the National Security Council, led by Gen. James L. Jones, would play a coordinating role on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mrs Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, emphasized this unity, saying – we want to send a clear and unequivocal message: we are a team.”

Already, though, there is some jockeying over whether the State Department or the White House will dominate foreign policy — with the first skirmishes playing out in the titles given to the emissaries.

Both Mr. Mitchell, the Special Envoy to the Middle East, and Mr. Holbrooke, the Special Representative, will report to Mrs. Clinton, and through her, to Mr. Obama, according to a State Department spokesman. But as if to dramatize the murkiness of the arrangement, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who accompanied Mr. Obama to the State Department, seemed confused at one point about whether the new president or the new secretary of state would introduce the emissaries. (It was Mrs. Clinton.)

As a special envoy, the State Department spokesman said, Mr. Mitchell will have a more traditional role, working out of the State Department. As a special representative, administration officials said, Mr. Holbrooke will have the freedom to roam — and to represent Mr. Obama, the National Security Council and even the Pentagon.


In this posting we concentrate on the enormous task before Ambassador Holbrooke.

Mr. Holbrooke and General Jones, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, wanted Mr. Holbrooke to be able to speak directly to the White House, an official said. General Jones once led NATO‘s Supreme Allied Command in Afghanistan, and plans to be deeply involved in Afghan policy.

Mr. Holbrooke, 67, who spoke of his roots as a junior diplomat, offered no details about future policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But he demonstrated his assertive personal style, saying he would coordinate “what is clearly a chaotic foreign assistance program” in Afghanistan.

Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke, according to Wikipedia – is currently vice chairman of Perseus LLC, a leading private equity firm. Until resigning in July, 2008, he was a board member of American International Group. He is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York and serves on the Advisory Board of the National Security Network. He is also a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Citizens Committee for New York City, and the Economic Club of New York. He is the Founding Chairman of the American Academy in Berlin; President and CEO of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, the business alliance against HIV/AIDS; and Chairman of the Asia Society. Other board memberships include the American Museum of Natural History, Malaria No More (a New York-based nonprofit that was launched at the 2006 White House Summit with the goal of ending all deaths caused by malaria), Partnership for a Secure America, and the National Endowment for Democracy. He is also an honorary trustee of the Dayton International Peace Museum, as well as professor-at-large at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, his alma mater. Additionally, Holbrooke is an Advisory Board member for the Partnership for a Secure America, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to recreating the bipartisan center in American national security and foreign policy.

He has also served as vice chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston, managing director of Lehman Brothers [23], managing editor of Foreign Policy, and director of the Peace Corps in Morocco.

He has written numerous articles and two books: To End A War, and the co-author of Counsel to the President, and one volume of The Pentagon Papers. He has received more than a dozen honorary degrees, including a LL.D. from Bates College in 1999. As of 2005, he writes a monthly column for The Washington Post.

On March 20, 2007 he appeared on The Colbert Report to mediate in what Stephen Colbert (or rather, his television alter-ego) saw as Willie Nelson infringing on his ice cream flavor time. Holbrooke was the ‘ambassador on call’ and after a short mediation process the two parties agreed to taste each other’s Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to make amends. He subsequently sang “On the Road Again” in a trio with Colbert and Nelson.

We bring here the above to show the tremendous versatility in Mr. Holbrooke’s interests, and we want to stress further, that early November, when we asked him what position he hopes he will get in the new White House, all what he said was that I am ready to serve – it seemed like he was ready to accept what is decided – provided this returns him to government service.

From all of the above list – the most relevant to us is his Chairmanship of the Board of the New York based Asia Society.

Further – let us already announce here that on Tuesday, January 27, 2009, Mr. Holbrooke will appear at an Asia Society luncheon meeting on “AMERICA’S FUTURE IN ASIA” – in conversation with:

Walter Russell Mead, Senior Fellow for US Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations;

Nobuyoshi Sakajiri, Senior diplomatic correspondent in China for Asahi Shinbun of Japan;

and Simon S.C. Tay, Chairman Singapore institute of International Affairs.

So, there is a large scope for Mr. Holbrooke’s interest in Asia – and the reality of his job that mentions Afghanistan and Pakistan is that the regional reach of his activities will involve much more then the above named two UN member States. When touching that area – the problems involve immediately also at least India, Iran, and Tadjikistan – but many more States in the region are mingled in because of the ethnic groups that live in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and there are really no borders before such ethnic extensions into the neighboring countries.

Our website posted many articles on this region – some of them are as follows:

We also posted the following very serious map under a guise of cartoon:


Those living in that center area to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are the Pashtuns. We also wrote about the Baluchis who share Pakistan and Iran, the Kashmiris who got divided when Pakistan parted from India, the Punjabis and Sindh people who live in Pakistan but do not see eye to eye, the Tadjiks who live in Afghanistan at the Tadjikistan border, and Iranians who live at the Afghan-Iranian border. In effect we wrote that Pakistan was carved out on a religious basis from what could have been a democratic secular State of the Indian subcontinent. Except for the general religion there is nothing that binds the Pakistanis, and in effect Pakistan is no Nation – it is today mainly an agglomerate of four ethnicities that somehow are held together by the rule of the military and by mistaken foreign intervention of the United States. The only glue is the hatred of India and the memory of the dissection of Kashmir at birth, back in 1948 when the British maneuvered the “divide and rule” policy so that the decolonization process of giant India got stuck in the mud of warfare.

From the above, when Richard Holbrooke got his White House appointment that said Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, this is in effect Special Representative with marching orders to include all of South Asia with the added mandate to deal with problems that reach to an area that includes India, Iran, Central Asia and even China. This is quite a region!


Looking at what I put on that envelope, besides the circle that tells the story, there is also the article about how extreme Islam in Pakistan is enslaving the people by not letting the young get an education. This is what condemns the country to the dregs and it should not be supported by the US with the funds that mistakenly were thrown at the useless Pakistani army by US Presidents, and US Congress, that thought they will help in the cold war against the Soviets, and later against what? The Taliban that was supported by the US, overtly and covertly, when there was no Soviet enemy to fight anymore, turned naturally against the US as the US was seen now as the foreign intruder.
The whole concept of what are terrorists, will fall for redefinition in the lap of this Special Representative of the US. Will he be able to splinter the Taliban into good “Taliban” and bad Taliban like it was done with the Sunnis in Iraq?
In this context the “good” Taliban would be those that want just independent rule for their piece of land, while the bad Taliban is friend of Al Qaeda, and interested in hitting the infidel wherever they can reach him. But let me not go too far and become ridiculous in making assumptions. Let Ambassador Holbrooke propose his moves to the White House when he manages to frame some sort of policy for the fractious region – and we pray that he does not insist on the present borders between the States. In effect, easing into more logical partitions might make the formulation of progress possible.

As we mentioned that Richard Holbrooke is still the Chairman of the New York based Asia Society, we were thus flabbergasted when we got the information that Wednesday, January 21, 2009, the day after the Obama, Washington Inaugural, the Asia Society was staging a conversation on “Understanding the Mumbai Attacks: Implications for the Future of Indo-Pakistan Relations.” As the attacks were by Muslims from Pakistan, who did this because of the situation in the India occupied Kashmir, these acts of terrorism are also part of what became his mandate. Actually, the New York Times mistakenly thought that India is part of the portfolio that Ambassador Holbrooke was going to get from President Obama. That was not to be, and he has only the part of the interaction with Pakistan. Will finally India allow a plebiscite in Kashmir and accept the people’s will? This will be also a goal of Mr. Holbrooke’s efforts – one of his attempts to defocus the Pakistani Intelligence Services covert activities in India.

The moderator was Dan Harris, anchor at ABC News whose journalistic career included coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The three members of the panel were –
A former Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, Mr. Munir Akram,
An Indian-American Professor of Political Science at Brown University, Professor Ashutosh Varshney, who also co-edited “Midnight’s Diaspora” – a book of “Critical Encounters with Salman Rushdie” – and wrote extensively about the Ethnic Hindu-Muslim conflict in India.
And a former President of the Asia Society, Nicholas Platt, a former US Ambassador who served in China, Pakistan, the Philippines.
The event was opened by Dr. Vishaka N. Desai, the President of Asia Society since 2004, when she took over from Nicholas Platt. Dr. Desai said she hopes for a return to “Smart Diplomacy.”
Prof. Varshney said that there was no long-term vision, so we got short-term response, and he identified two schools of thought about Pakistan:
(a) a right-wing model identified with right-wings in Washington and Delhi that the disintegration of Pakistan is a necessary step to India-Pakistan peace – and he disagrees.
(b) the US-Canada border model where $1.3 billion in food trade crosses the border daily.
Ambassador Akram said that State-sponsored terrorism was a tool of choice used by India, and also Pakistan. In Pakistan this was sponsored by the CIA. In 1991-94 India was in trouble in Kashmir and offered discussions to find a solution – but nothing came out of this.
Amb. Platt’s experience in Pakistan was the uneasy relationship inside the country and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area filled with militants working against Afghanistan. He said that disintegration is neither in the cards – nor in anyone’s interest. When people are under stress communications are difficult – but he thinks there are lots of solutions.
Amb. added that when you have a government you can not allow the public to push you to suicide.
Amb. Platt: the target of the Taliban is Pakistan itself.
Amb.r Akram: Taliban and Kashmir are different things. You never attacked Taliban before they gave shield to Bin Laden after 9/11.
More Pakistanis were killed on the border then Americans in Iraq. The US did not allow us to divide the Taliban. The terrible thing is to send us into a fight against our own people.
Prof. Varshney: India cannot go to war because it can evolve into a nuclear war.
For Kashmir – Autonomy – Yes. Independence – NO.
Question from the floor: What are the issues to start with when looking for peace?
Amb. Platt – there are different ideas for this, but neither government is domestically strong.
CONCLUSION – there was no glimmer of an idea in this discussion for a solution – so we have to continue to work on this.
And let me add that this was a very sad event, eventually I expressed this opinion also before Dr. Desai and Prof. Varshney.
At the meeting was present the full cadre of Pakistani journalists from the UN, and they swarmed around former Ambassador Akram. This show of support left me blurry.
Actually, I still have The statement by Ambassador Munir Akram during the informal consultations of the UN General Assembly on “THE UN GLOBAL COUNTER-TERRORISM STRATEGY” of June 14, 2006.
He took then a position supported also by other OIC countries (Organization of Islamic Countries) that one has to define terrorism in the proposed text so it addresses “underlying causes such as foreign occupation and the suppression of self-determination; the issue of state terrorism, the problem of insults and defamation of religion and cultures; the need for vigorous international effort to promote social-economic development and employment-creation to end extremism and terrorism.” He wanted further discussion on words: “instigation” of terrorism; “sanctuaries” for terrorists; “victims of terrorism”; – some other words he found to be loosely used – “soft targets”; “internationally shared values.” All of the above so that he can allow terrorism to flourish if it is committed by Palestinians or Kashmiris.
In short – this man was important enough at the UN to carry the blame that the UN can still not define what is a terrorist, and still has no effective decision, though there are on the books already 14 empty UN Resolutions on Terrorism.
In my notes, I found one more interesting tidbit from Amb. Akram’s Press Conference that day. This when journalist Matthew Russell Lee asked him about evictions of the Baluchis in Karachi, and further suppression of the Baluchis. The Ambassador answered that “there are no slums in Karachi, but we want to create some sort of property rights.” He also said that “there is a Baluchistan in Pakistan, an area the size of Spain, and it is kind of law and order situation. They want increased royalties – but not a secession. Our enemies want to open there a way to Central Asia.”
Having presented the above, we point our distaste at the backing of the Kashmiri terrorists, and the fact that these terrorists are based in Pakistan, but that does not mean that we see as positive the way the Indians handle the situation. in effect, a Financial Times editorial of today, February 23, 2009, points that Indian officials regard Kashmir as inalienable, and that almost half of the Indian army is used to keep down 4 million Kashmiris.
On November 4, 2008, The Asia Society hosted Professor Saeed Shafqat from the Forman Christian University, Lahore, Pakistan, on “Pakistan Outlook 2009 – Continuing Crisis or Restoring Stability?” and the results were just as inconclusive.
As Pakistan is indeed falling apart, and being a nuclear State could have global impact, so what will Amb. Holbrooke have to work with? As per another Foreign Policy article in today’s Financial Times, it seems that the new US policy will be to demand from countries that get US funding – specifically – Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to “progress in the battle against terrorism, sectarianism. and corruption. In short the US will demand more bang for its aid bucks on terror frontline.”
Returning to the Conversation of January 22, 2009 at the Asia Society, I asked from one of the Pakistani Journalists, and then from Dr. Vishaka Desai and Professor Ashutosh Varshney – why those two models that were presented that regard a break-up of Pakistan, rather then a much more positive outcome – a way out from that original sin of the break-up of the old greater India – the creation of the larger United Indian Subcontinent where Pakistani States four or five of them, join the 32 States of India, in a union where each single State in that Federation is entitled to its self rule in true autonomy. The Federation continues to be secular, but home rule in the member States allows for locally agreed laws. Perhaps indeed this was not possible in 1948 – but with the miserable experience since, why could they not see that this is a most reasonable solution. After all, India is a striving economy, destined some day to become a leading economy, and Pakistan goes from bad to worse all the time.
The Pakistani, gave me an earful of past transgressions, Dr. Desai said that the Pakistani military would never allow this, and Professor Varshney also did not seem enthusiastic with the suggestion. I hope that Ambassador Holbrooke will consider this sort of ideas in order to stir up the dust and dry blood that he will encounter. Then money talks, and if money is dried up from those generals and intelligence officers that do not produce anyway, the resistance to this sort of approach might become less outspoken.



How to Improve Indo-Pakistani Relations?
Following a second panel discussion on the Mumbai terror attack and the relationship between India and Pakistan, Asia Society is actively seeking the pub lic’s input on this important issue.
Read about the panel and watch a video excerpt
Share your thoughts – What should be done, by India, Pakistan, or the US, to improve India-Pakistan relations?
DC Inaugural Gala celebrates Asian America’s role in the 2008 election and US government. Watch the slideshow.
Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article