THE vacuum in global politics caused by the US interregnum between presidential election and inauguration is evident in many ways but in none more dangerously than the aftermath to the terrorist attack on Mumbai.

India's allegations, direct and indirect, that a Pakistan-based group was responsible for the killings have been handled in a way that is likely to cause the greatest possible ill-feeling between these two ill-adjusted neighbours. There are elections coming in India and that is almost certainly a factor but at the same time the newly installed president of Pakistan is entitled to argue that he has problems enough in getting hold of his country without unnecessary provocation from outside. With no input from the United States there is no referee in the ring with these two fighters.

Unfortunately, Washington is deeply entrenched in both these countries and cannot opt-out of an involvement that affects their policies, whether over Pakistan's role in America's war in Afghanistan or the recent encouragement with India in nuclear development. Barack Obama has correctly identified Kashmir as the issue that makes agreement between India and Pakistan so difficult to choose. Whenever there is a dispute of any kind it is amplified in the Kashmir quarrel over borders. This has already happened this week and Mr Obama has said a solution to Kashmir is essential to avoid wider terrorism. He is right, but the problem is unresolved after sixty years.


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