Holbrooke is credited with achieving the impossible in the realm of diplomacy and has been entrusted with the daunting task of becoming the focal point in coordinating policies for achieving US strategic goals in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His appointment as the "special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan" has raised hopes that given his reputation as a go getter, he will be able to untangle the complex regional situation that is acquiring threatening dimensions from the US perspective. However exclusion of India from his brief, under the pressure of Indian lobbying might have substantively curtailed the prospects for success of a difficult assignment regarded by many as the mission impossible. The crippling exclusion of India and Kashmir from the terms of reference, that circumscribe Holbrooke's account, is no ordinary shortfall. The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, FATA, areas of NWFP and Kashmir is intricately interlinked with an ingrained India connection. The fact is not lost on US analysts - and politicians. Obama had earlier told Times Joe Klien, that working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve Kashmir conflict would be a critical task for his administration's efforts to counter the growing instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Obama also indicated in the interview that he had discussed the special envoy idea with former President Clinton. Such deliberation from a US president in-waiting, threatening to bring alive the worst Indian nightmare of a third party interference to adjudicate on Kashmir, sent alarm bells ringing in the Indian corridors of power. "The Indians freaked out at talk of Bill Clinton being an envoy to Kashmir," says Daniel Markey, a well known South Asia expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The reason they were so worried is they don't want activities in Kashmir to be equated with the situation in Afghanistan." The Obama musings coincided with the assessment made by British Foreign Secretary, Miliband when he pointed to an inalienable link between Kashmir and the imperatives of fighting terrorism in Afghanistan. In an article published in The Guardian he wrote: "Although I understand the current difficulties, resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the Region one of their main calls to arms, and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders." India shares no borders with Afghanistan nor did it play any role during the occupation of Afghanistan by Russian forces in 70's and 80's. As the profile of North-South divisions between Taliban and the Northern alliances sharpened in 90's, India entered as a major player in Afghanistan with the sole aim of destabilising the situation on Pakistan's western borders and raising the spectre of a two front scenario. Ever since 9/11 and the routing of Taliban before an aerial assault duly synchronised with a ground sweep by the Indian protges in the Northern Alliance, India has emerged as a major player in the Afghan politics. The tenuous and shaky hold exercised by Karzai government and placement of Indian stooges in all important government's ministerial slots has placed India in the driving seat; a peril hard to ignore by Pakistan. Her machinations to promote her protges at the cost of Pushtuns - largest ethnic faction with 42 percent of the population pie - has been feeding the rise of Pushtun/Taliban insurgency in the region, translating into a continuous stream of body bags back to US. Across the Pak-Afghan border, India is engaged in waging a no holds barred proxy war to stretch the Pakistani government and the army. Exploiting their strong foothold in Afghanistan, the Indian money and supply of sophisticated weapons are finding their way to the Taliban fighters who are now actively engaged in challenging the writ of the state in FATA and parts of NWFP, particularly the Swat area. Thanks to the Indian largesse, the Taliban fighters are now well equipped with the latest versions of weapons and communication equipment that are at the cutting edge of technology in the realm of military warfare. Indian support has also been instrumental in stoking the fires of instability in Balochistan, where Baloch dissident elements have found the Indian embrace welcoming and responsive to their radical needs. India has also been instrumental in providing breathing spaces to the terrorists at crucial junctures by drawing the focus of the Pakistani army away from the anti-terrorist operations at Pak Afghan border and inside Pakistan. The post-Mumbai attack period saw a rapid escalation in the vitriolic rhetoric emanating from India and movement of Indian forces that forced a Pakistani response of pulling troops away from the War On Terror to the eastern borders and the LoC. If precedence is any guide this patron of holding Pakistan responsible for all incidents of terrorism in India followed up by military escalation is going to remain a serious impediment in Pakistan's response to terrorism; in NWFP, FATA and the Pak-Afghan border. In the context of fighting terrorism in the subcontinent it is to state the obvious that Kashmir holds the key in unpicking the interwoven strands of radicalism manifesting in South Asia. India has tried every trick in its repertoire to snuff out the Kashmiri urge for independence by resorting to stonewalling or by engaging in its well-practised art of transforming all sincere efforts at finding a solution into wild goose chases. Its latest victim is the comatose Composite Dialogue Process (CDP). CDP was built around the core issue of Kashmir and despite five years and five long spells even the peripheral issues have not registered any forward movement. Such perpetual chicanery and barely concealed conceit in addressing Kashmir has created a sense of frustration and pent up anger that is encroaching onto the Indian soil through non-state actors - a phenomenon non-existent a few years ago. India's response through a proxy war in Afghanistan and Pakistan to dilute latter's stance on Kashmir is adding fuel to the fire. If the South Asian region has to know peace Kashmir needs to be resolved or the malaise would keep metastasising in different forms and at different locations with its vitriolic fallout. Factoring Kashmir and the Indian intransigence to address the aspirations of its people remain at the core of any effort that seeks to resolve the issue of terrorism in the South Asian context. A hobbled Holbrooke is certain to find that out - and sooner rather than later. The writer is a freelance columnist Momin Iftikhar E-mail: mominiftikhar@ymail.com