Quite predictably, the Indian Government has reacted negatively to a suggestion for linking the settlement of long-standing dispute over Jammu and Kashmir with terrorist attacks on Mumbai lastNovember. The suggestion was implicit in the statements the British Foreign Secretary, Mr Miliband made during his recent visit to India. The British foreign secretary had underlined the need for resolving the Kashmir dispute to ensure lasting peace and security in South Asia. In other words, what Miliband said amounted to suggestion that the Indian government should take steps towards resolving the Kashmir dispute to check future terrorist attacks in India as Mumbai attacks were rooted in the long standing dispute over Kashmir. The Indian government had rejected this suggestion as "unsolicited advice," and dismissed Miliband's statements as interference in its internal affairs. Minister for External Affairs, Pranab Mukherji had reacted in a similar fashion when President Barack Hussein Obama, indicated his plan to put Kashmir on his foreign policy agenda for improving Pakistan-India relations as a means to wage anti-terror war in Pakistan and Afghanistan more effectively. Obama spoke about Kashmir first in an October 2008 interview to the Time magazine and then touched upon it during December 5 interview to the same publication. Although Obama mentioned Kashmir in the context of a better Afghanistan-Pakistan-India coordination to defeat Taliban and Al-Qaeda resurgence in Afghanistan, the Indian official and political establishment was visibly upset over the prospects of a pro-active role of the United States in Pakistan-India affairs. All that Obama had said was that he was contemplating to work "with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir crisis in a serious way," for the purpose of "managing a more effective strategy in Afghanistan." In India, however, it was perceived as an attempt to mediate on Kashmir. In order to pre-empt such a role, therefore, the Indian foreign minister hastened to issue a statement reiterating the long-standing Indian position that Kashmir was a bilateral dispute between Pakistan and India and that there was no room for a third party mediatory intervention as desired by President Obama. The Indian perturbation over the ideas expressed by President Obama and David Miliband is understandable. Since the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, India has persistently sought to de-link the incident from the larger issue of Pakistan-India relations. The Indian strategy is motivated by two major objectives: one, deflect the attention of the international community from Kashmir, which witnessed an intensification of the freedom movement last summer due to the official mishandling the issue of land allotment to a Hindu Trust for religious purpose. Two, by keeping Mumbai terrorist attacks separate from the issue of Pakistan-India relations, India aims to mobilise world public opinion for securing Pakistan's compliance of UN Security Council resolution on crack down on the terrorist outfits. But, apparently, the Indian efforts are going in vain. The Mumbai attacks have highlighted the highly tenuous security situation in South Asia and reaffirmed the belief already held strongly by a growing number of nations of the world that unless relations between Pakistan and India improve, peace and security in the region cannot be guaranteed. And relations between the two countries cannot be fully normalised unless the festering dispute over Kashmir is resolved. This realisation is not just the outcome of Mumbai attacks. The history of Pakistan-India relations is a witness to the fact that every effort made for the normalisation of relations between the two countries met with failure because of the inability of the two countries to resolve the dispute over Kashmir. Pakistan-India peace process initiated in early 2004 on the basis of composite dialogue has also been unable to make much headway because of the lack of progress on Kashmir. This is a reality, which though ignored by India is being increasingly recognised by the international community. The statement made by Miliband is only a reflection of this reality. During the last more than 20 years, the people of Kashmir have been subjected to the worst kind of repression by the Indian security forces. The violence in the valley continues unabated. The struggle of the Kashmiri people has attracted the attention of the whole world. Though terrorism as witnessed in Mumbai cannot be justified on any ground, the menace cannot be eliminated without addressing its root causes. It is very strange to find that on the one hand, India rejects what it calls third party mediation in disputes between Pakistan and India, especially on Kashmir, on the other, it calls upon the international community, particularly the United States to put maximum pressure on Pakistan to act against the 'elements' India claims are responsible for terrorism in Mumbai. For this purpose high-ranking Indian diplomats have visited the capitals of the major powers, trying to convince them that the perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Bombay came from Pakistan and that Pakistan should be forced to move against these elements. This is not for the first time that India not only accepted but also solicited third party role in matters that were strictly bilateral between Pakistan and India. During the 2001-2002 military standoff, both countries accepted and executed the advice of outside powers to defuse the situation. It is now an open secret that major powers like the United States, China and Great Britain played important role in facilitating Pakistan and India to resume the composite dialogue in 2004. In the wake of Mumbai terrorist attacks, when tensions ran high between Islamabad and New Delhi, the United States, China, Britain and Russia made strenuous efforts to defuse the situation and it is largely because of these efforts that a clash between the two nuclear armed powers of South Asia was averted. What the Indian need to understand is that peace and security in South Asia is not merely a bilateral issue between Pakistan and India, it is a matter of concern for the whole international community for two obvious reasons: One, Pakistan and India are armed with nuclear weapons. Given the history of their relations during the last three decades, there is a high degree of probability of war between them. The unresolved dispute over Kashmir is considered to be the most likely cause of a future clash between the two South Asian neighbours. This is why Kashmir is called a nuclear flash point in the region. Second, it is slowly but surely now dawning on the international community that the persistence of regional conflicts, like Kashmir in South Asia and the Arab-Israel conflict in the Middle East will remain a source of inspiration for certain groups to resort to terrorism. The elimination of terrorist threats is, therefore, being linked with the resolution of regional conflicts that the terrorists might use as recruitment fields to pursue their agenda. It is for this reason that within a couple of days after being sworn in, President Obama has appointed special envoys for the Middle East and Pakistan-Afghanistan. The appointment of Richard Holbrooks as US president's special envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan is a clear indication that the new administration in Washington is serious on implementing its strategic plan in the region that could effectively deal with resurgence of Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and terrorism in Pakistan. The political and military leadership of the United States and NATO have openly admitted that Pakistan holds key to a successful implementation of this plan. But there will be serious limitations on Pakistan's role in case tensions with India persist. Clearly, the success of Obama-Biden strategic plan for Afghanistan depends upon the lessening of tension between Pakistan and India and that is possible only when the core issue between the two countries is resolved. Whatever position the Indians may take on the statements made by President Obama and David Miliband, terrorist threats in South and South-west Asia cannot be met without the cooperation between Pakistan, India and Afghanistan. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute